Israel’s alternative protein plan: PM tastes Aleph Farms’ cultivated steak and “can’t taste the difference”
08 Dec 2020 --- Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has visited Aleph Farms, an Israeli start-up growing real meat directly from cow cells under controlled conditions, to taste cultivated steak first-hand. Netanyahu has also directed for a body to be set up to serve the burgeoning cultivated meat industry, and make the country a “powerhouse for alternative meat and alternative protein.”
“It’s delicious and guilt-free, I can’t taste the difference,” declares Netanyahu, during a tour of Aleph Farms’ operations along with The Good Food Institute Israel’s Managing Director Nir Goldstein.
Netanyahu’s visit, which included an overview of the production process and the company’s sustainability strategy, is part of a national policy plan to establish Israel as an alternative protein leader. Netanyahu is the first head of state to taste meat cultivated outside of a cow.
The visit also included a presentation by Goldstein and Aleph Farms’ co-founder and CEO Didier Toubia, who shared the organization’s National Policy Plan – a detailed roadmap “for making Israel a global protein leader.”
Israel is hotbed for cultivated meat innovation
The COVID-19 crisis and climate change have served to point out the sensitive nature of food systems and highlighted the urgency for establishing sustainable and resilient food systems.
Like many other countries, Israel faces food security challenges, having 85 percent of the locally consumed beef imported and not locally produced.
“The new national plan for alternative proteins involves six different ministries and capitalizes on Israel’s unique capabilities,” says Toubia.
“Aleph Farms is a great example of such collaboration between a governmental agency, the industry, and the academy – all working together to secure a leading position in this key industry. The goal of implementing such national programs for food security is to provide unconditional and secure supplies of quality nutrition to anyone, anytime, anywhere.”
“We feel lucky to be part of the local cultivated meat industry, which is working collaboratively to stimulate a global transition for the protein sector,” adds Toubia.
Goldstein says alternative protein production could prove to be a central economic growth engine for the country.
“With governmental support in this industry, we could enjoy 11,000 additional jobs that would earn the economy billions of dollars each year. Israel, which currently exports only 5 percent of the food it produces, could become a global supplier of raw materials and advanced production technologies for alternative proteins,” he notes.
“This can all become a reality, in part thanks to the governmental support thus far, but it also depends on government funding from here on of scientific research and development to turbo-charge alternative protein innovation,” Goldstein continues.
Building resilient food systems
Last week, Singapore made headway to concluding the world’s first regulatory process that will bring cultivated meat to the market.
This has transformed the cultivated meat movement from being a long-term vision into becoming a realized practical solution that addresses some of the world’s most pressing challenges of our times.
Cultured chicken meat from Eat Just was green-lighted for sale as an ingredient in chicken bites. The island nation is the first to give the go-ahead to meat being grown in a lab. It follows a rigorous consultation and review process by the Singapore Food Agency.
Aleph’s “steak in space” program
Commercialization of Aleph Farm’s cultured steak edged one step closer last month with the first phase of construction of its BioFarm getting underway.
The food tech company is heading toward transferring its thin-cut beef steaks into a proprietary platform suitable for mass cultivation.
In October, the start-up announced “a bold new frontier” through its newly launched program “Aleph Zero.” The company, backed by food producers such as Cargill, Migros and the Strauss Group, supports deep-space exploration and the potential colonization of new planets.
The initiative focuses on introducing new capabilities for locally producing fresh, quality meat even in the harshest and remote extraterrestrial environments, such as space.
This came a year after Aleph Farms completed its first slaughter-free meat experiment in space by cultivating beef steaks on the International Space Station, 248 miles (339 km) away from any natural resources.
World’s first slaughter-free dining experience
Aleph Farms, SuperMeat, MeatTech and Future Meat Technologies are some of the world’s leading cultivated meat companies, and all are headquartered in Israel.
Aleph Farms has also pledged to become carbon-neutral by 2025 and initiated a pilot cultivation facility earlier this year.
Last month, SuperMeat spoke with FoodIngredientsFirst about the opening of its restaurant dedicated to serving cell-cultured meat in Israel. Curious diners will be among the first to try slaughter-free dishes in a foodservice setting if they manage to get a table at The Chicken test kitchen – the world’s first restaurant experience serving meat grown directly from chicken cells.
Cultivated meat heading toward commercialization
Cell-cultured meat is continuing to gain traction across the food industry, with several other key players pressing ahead with developments and heading toward commercialization.
Also, last week UK-based CPI technology innovation center started a collaboration with 3D Bio-Tissues – a spin-out of Newcastle University – to develop a new kind of improved growth media, one that is “truly animal-free.”
Meanwhile, KFC-Russia is using 3D bioprinting technology to produce real chicken meat grown directly from the cell in cooperation with the 3D Bioprinting Solutions research laboratory.
Funding for Mosa Meat
The spin-off company from Maastricht University, Mosa Meat, which was behind the world’s first hamburger made directly from cow cells rather than raising and slaughtering an animal, back in 2013 – has this week completed a second closing of Series B fundraising. The additional US$20 million brings the total raised so far in the round to US$75 million.
This will accelerate extending the current pilot production facility, develop an industrial-sized production line, expand Mosa Meat’s team, and get closer to introducing the start-up’s cultivated beef to consumers.
Mosa Meat says that the funding will bring together global investors who are dedicated to sustainability, supporting its mission to develop a cleaner, kinder way of making real beef.
These include Blue Horizon Ventures, Target Global, ArcTern Ventures, Rubio Impact Venture and Mitsubishi Corporation.
By Gaynor Selby
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