UK government hones in on cultured meat with £12M sustainable protein hub investment
14 Apr 2023 --- Britain is injecting £12 million (US$15 million) into a specialized hub of innovation focused on cellular agriculture aimed at transforming food production, transitioning to an environmentally, economically and socially sustainable model in which novel manufacturing systems complement traditional food production.
Researchers will also look into developing foods such as sustainable palm oil through precision fermentation. This technique uses organisms such as yeast to produce real egg or dairy proteins to deliver the flavor and texture of foods like cheese, meat and eggs without using animals.
The Cellular Agriculture Manufacturing Hub (CARMA) is described as a “seismic” move for the UK. It will be the most significant single investment the government has made to date in sustainable proteins.
Delivering alternative proteins
Funding the project shows that Britain acknowledges the growth opportunities within the emerging field of cellular agriculture and its potential to achieve net zero and address food security.
Europe has already established similar alternative protein alliances and officially champions the move to alternative proteins. As part of the European Green Deal, the European Commission has pledged €100 billion (US$110.5 billion) from 2021-2027 for the green transition. The plan includes investing in plant-based and alternative proteins.
Outside the UK and Europe, Singapore leads the charge in gaining regulatory approvals for cell-based products. The US is also moving the needle toward commercialization and overcoming regulatory hurdles.
The UK funding will help scientists and companies in the country make cultivated meat at scale – considered one of the biggest roadblocks holding back the burgeoning cell-based sector.
UK-based cultivated meat companies, including Hoxton Farms and Quest Meat, will also be part of the Hub.
Hoxton Farms uses cells from pigs and cows and grows them “in something similar to a fermenter where you brew beer,” co-founder Ed Steele told FoodIngredientsFirst earlier this year.
Quest Meat aims to accelerate the cultivated meat industry by providing ingredients and bioprocessing tools to the sector.
Meanwhile, teams from the University of Birmingham, the University of Aberystwyth, the University College London, and the Royal Agricultural University will partner with the University of Bath on the project which is leading the project.
Moving toward net zero in food
The Hub will run for seven years and will be geared toward transforming food production. One key goal is to reduce carbon emissions and land use compared with traditional meat manufacturing.
Cellular agriculture is generally considered the crucial breakthrough in food tech, guaranteed to develop future food without the need to rear and slaughter animals.
It is hailed for sustainability credentials and promises to answer environmental and health demands from consumers. It’s also considered an antidote to the flurry of challenges facing the F&B industry as the population grows and the search for alternative protein gathers pace.
“We have an exceptional team spanning upstream and downstream processing, underpinning biology, upstream (consumer) engagement, supply chain and life cycle assessment. Our initial focus will be the tissue engineered cellular agriculture product, cultured meat, and the precision fermentation product, alternative palm oil, but as the Hub expands, we expect many other cellular agriculture products to benefit from the research program,” explains Professor Marianne Ellis, Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Bath.
“We will take a transdisciplinary approach by engaging with consumers and other stakeholders from the outset to ensure we complement and boost our country’s food and farming industry for sustainability, social and economic gains.”
Industry welcomes Britain’s cell-based boost
International food sustainability non-profit the Good Food Institute Europe welcomes the move.
“This announcement is a seismic move in the development of a UK sustainable protein industry and I want to praise the government for investing in the extraordinary potential of these new ways of making meat,” adds Linus Pardoe, UK policy manager at GFI.
“This landmark investment is a strong indication that the UK government recognizes the importance of cellular agriculture and the need to invest in the R&D necessary to help British companies scale production, bringing down costs and making this food available to everyone.”
“It’s also great to see that this project will explore the societal implications of these new ways of making food, ensuring that consumers and food producers understand and benefit from these game-changing innovations,” she underscores.
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), has funded CARMA.
By Gaynor Selby
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