Cultured meat coalition: Lab-grown producers form alliance to drive growth of "slaughter-free" technologies
04 Sep 2019 --- Five innovative food companies who are looking to bring cell-based (lab-grown) meat, poultry and seafood to restaurants and retail shelves in the US have formed the Alliance for Meat, Poultry & Seafood Innovation (AMPS Innovation). This coalition is focused on educating consumers and stakeholders about their new industry and facilitating a clear path to market for their products. Through the new alliance, the companies are working closely with government to establish a regulatory framework for the burgeoning industry.
Founding member companies of AMPS Innovation include BlueNalu and Finless Foods, producers of cell-based seafood; Fork & Goode and JUST, makers of cultured meat and poultry; and Memphis Meats, which specializes in lab-grown beef, poultry and seafood.
Lab-grown meat, poultry and seafood is real meat grown outside the animal, directly from animal cells. Cultured meat is pegged by its proponents as sustainable, where previous research has suggested that farmed meat consumption should be dramatically reduced to slow the onset of climate change. The process enables the production of only the animal muscle, fat, skin and connective tissue that is typically eaten, without producing other parts of the animal that are not regularly consumed.
Cell-based/cultured meat is real meat, neither a vegan nor vegetarian meat alternative, notes AMPS Innovation. Members of the association understand that cell-based/cultured meat, poultry and seafood is one solution that will help fulfill the increased demand for meat as the global population grows to almost 10 billion people by 2050. Member companies also expect their process to provide significant benefits for animal welfare and public health.
All five member companies, and other companies in this new and dynamic industry, are currently in the R&D phase but expect to make products available in the next several years, through appropriate regulatory pathways. In addition, the companies recognize that, as with all foods, consumers will want clear and transparent information about these products as they become available. AMPS Innovation aims to provide a central, unified resource for consumers, stakeholders and policymakers as their industry advances.
“Over the past few years, each member company has made significant strides in the development of our products, and we are excited at the prospect that they will soon be options in the everyday diets of individuals,” reads a joint statement released by the CEOs of the new alliance.
In the coming months, AMPS Innovation intends to engage policymakers and stakeholders to educate them on their products in addition to working with Congress, the US Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration to establish a regulatory framework for meat, poultry and seafood that is grown directly from animal cells, rather than from culled livestock. AMPS Innovation aims to create an environment for the industry that will sustain innovation for years to come.
“We are committed to an open and science-based dialogue with all stakeholders, including industry partners, policymakers, advocates and consumers. As we look ahead to the imminent challenges of feeding a growing population, AMPS Innovation is dedicated to working together, in partnership with the broader agricultural community, to advance solutions to address these needs,” conclude the CEOs.
Labriculture has entered popular nomenclature in reference to the “slaughter-free” technologies of cellular agriculture, which are increasingly cited as an avenue for sustainable meat consumption. The emergent sector has seen significant growth in the last year, boosted by new investment from established industry players and the rise of cutting-edge technology.
In June, researchers at Tufts University, US, proposed that lab-grown insect meat, fed on plants and genetically modified for maximum growth, nutrition and flavor, may be a viable and even a “superior” green alternative for high volume, healthy food production. The scientists advocate cultured insect protein as a potential solution to land and water degradation, biodiversity loss, acid rain, coral reef degeneration, deforestation and climate change, which are resulting from conventional meat farming.
Aleph Farms, a cultured meat innovator best known for introducing a lab-grown minute steak, raised US$12 million in series A investments in May, advanced by investments from Cargill Protein. The injection of capital is being used to transform Aleph Farm’s slaughter-free concept into a commercial product. The brand’s cultured meat will be grown in large, clean bio-farm facilities similar to a dairy facility.
Also in May, lab-grown crustacean meat was projected to make its restaurant debut as early as next year in premium Singaporean establishments. This is according to the CEO and Co-Founder of Southeast Asia’s premier cell-based meat venture, Shiok Meats, which claims to be the first and only company in the world that synthesizes lab-grown crustacean meat for human consumption. Earlier this year, Shiok Meats closed its seed round of funding at US$4.6 million. The company’s cell-based agricultural infrastructure, specializing in the cultivation of shrimp meat (and later, crab and lobster meat), is gearing up for large-scale production expected in the next three to five years.
Last March, US researchers developed a new technique to build starch backbones for lab-grown meat using Lego pieces. Spinning starch fibers using an inexpensive electrospinning device made from the popular children's construction toy is proposed as having future applications for the burgeoning cultured meat sector, according to a team of food scientists from Penn State and the University of Alabama.
In February, Spanish-based start-up Cubiq Foods, the first European producer of cell-based fat, announced its development and commercialization of cell-based fat of animal origin to enhance the flavor of food, enrich it with essential fatty acids (omega 3) and to help reduce the use of trans fats and palm oil. The company touts the innovation as bringing the industry a step closer to creating cell cultured meat with a “fat-like” mouth-feel.
By Benjamin Ferrer
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