“KFC embracing cultured meat is positive for consumer acceptance,” say lab-grown pioneers
Could the cooperation between 3D Bioprinting Solutions and KFC Russia accelerate interest from corporations toward cultivated meat companies?
22 Jul 2020 --- Cell-cultured meat is continuing to gain traction across the food industry, with players including Dutch start-up Mosa Meat and Israel-based Aleph Farms pressing ahead with developments. 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 – and the cultured meat milestone is being hailed as the biggest moment for alternative proteins in 2020.
The Good Food Institute (GFI)’s Executive Director Bruce Friedrich says KFC’s moves in Russia to bioprint nuggets, coupled with its Beyond Fried Chicken launch in Southern California, US, is a hugely significant, while cell-based meat pioneers Mosa Meat and Aleph Farms say it’s a milestone moment.
“Having an iconic brand such as KFC embrace cultured meat is very positive for consumer acceptance. It signals to consumers that these products are already being accepted in the mainstream and that they can expect them to taste like KFC chicken,” Sarah Lucas, Head of Operations at Dutch start-up Mosa Meat, tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
“The only obstacle in well-known brands adding cultured meat to their menus is reaching scale – it takes some time to produce large enough quantities. But there is already huge interest from fast-food chains and foodservice franchises to start selling cultured meat products once we’re at scale,” she explains.
Alongside Mosa Meat – a spin-off company from Maastricht University which was behind the world’s first hamburger made directly from cow cells rather than raising and slaughtering an animal, back in 2013 – various companies are moving to develop pilot factory scale. Meanwhile, there are continued investments from big players, including a further €5 million (US$5.6 million) investment in Mosa Meat from Bell Food Group earlier this month, which will help overcome scientific challenges, such as developing animal-free culture media.
Cultured meat milestone
“The cooperation between 3D Bioprinting Solutions and KFC Russia represents an important milestone for the industry, in terms of the promise realization of this innovation by big conventional-food service-corporates. We believe that it’ll continue to accelerate the interest from corporations toward cultivated meat companies looking to establish their B2B models – delivering conventional meat producers and foodservice players an extension line of production and products,” says Didier Toubia, Co-Founder and CEO of Aleph Farms.
Meanwhile, Friedrich of GFI says: “It’s remarkable and inspiring to see KFC-Russia investing in new ways of making meat.” KFC is the first restaurant brand in the world to cast its lot with cultivated meat, and the chain is all in, promising a cultivated meat prototype this year, he affirms.
With KFC synonymous with chicken, Friedrich sees it as an exciting opportunity to rethink what the meat means. “As one of the most iconic restaurant chains in the world responding in this way, we think this could be a game-changer for the industry,” Friedrich maintains.
“This could be the biggest moment for alternative proteins in 2020, especially if KFC-Russia follows through with its plans to host a cultivated meat tasting in the fall as promised and if Beyond Fried Chicken rolls out in the US,” he notes.
Lucas of Mosa Meat believes that cultured meat will become mainstream. “It will taste the same, but has the potential to be healthier, kinder, better for the environment and less expensive. If we can achieve this, we believe most consumers will prefer cultured meat,” she comments.
“As for consumer acceptance, when cultivated meat products are rolled out, people will be curious,” Matt Ball, Senior Communications Specialist at GFI, tells FoodIngredientsFirst. “As we learn more about cultivated meat, the more it will be appreciated how much better it is than meat from industrial animal agriculture. But it is likely to be a while before cultivated meat is available to everyone,” he asserts.
“When available for consumers, seeing cultivated meat products sold in food services will drive positive acceptance and increase their likeability to incorporate such products into their regular diet,” adds Toubia of Aleph Farms. However, it’s important to note that the benchmark for cultivated meat products lies in the promise of production for high portions of meat in a cost-efficient, safe and sustainable manner. “This directly links to the promise of raising the quality standard of meat produced in concentrated farming operations today, but again, not to replace the regenerative/organic/grass-fed meat category,” he warns.
Cost-effectiveness could shape the sector
For Toubia, the most significant challenges lie in designing the right products in a cost-efficient and sustainable manner, directed for different consumers with specific expectations across various geographies. “Another challenge lies in driving positive consumer acceptance and the public’s education to the innovation,” he adds.
According to Friedrich of GFI, “the US needs to catch up, and we hope it creates something like the space race but focuses on growing healthy and sustainable meat from cells cost-effectively and bringing that meat to the world.”
“There are many approaches to getting the price of cultivated meat down. 3D printing is one approach. GFI is agnostic as to what is the best way to go,” adds Ball.
A bright future ahead?
The sector will continue to evolve in the coming months as companies start to scale from product development setting into commercial manufacturing of consumer goods, says Toubia. “Moreover, the discussions with regulatory authorities, corporate strategic partners and consumers will be accelerated accordingly,” he asserts.
Meanwhile, Mosa Meat aims to make further partnerships with industry to “achieve mass scale as soon as possible, and begin making an impact for the environment and animals,” says Lucas.
“We will likely see the first small-scale market introductions in the next few years. Mosa Meat aims to do this in Europe by 2022,” she concludes.
By Elizabeth Green
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