The major cell-cultured meat producers include:-
- Mosa Meat of Maastricht, Holland
Established in 2015, this company has made successive improvements in production technology and claims to be able to produce a hamburger patty for $10 in 2021, down from $250,000 in 2018. The company has apparently eliminated the need for fetal bovine serum in their growth substrate. Mosa Meat has attracted over $100 million in venture capital with participation by major investment companies and prominent individuals.
- Memphis Meats of Berkeley, CA.
Founded in 2016 this company has raised close to $200 million in funding from major venture capital companies and A-list investors. By mid-2017 Memphis Meats reduced the cost of their cell cultured meat to $2,400 per pound and anticipates commercially realistic prices by 2022.
This Israeli food technology company has developed a three-dimensional platform to co-culture muscle, fat and connective tissue to produce a meat product claimed to have the texture of steak when served. The company has received financial support from numerous venture capital companies and has received government sponsorship and facilities. The Company has received investments from Cargill Inc. and has an MoU with Mitsubishi Food Group of Japan for commercialization.
This is the second Israeli company to develop cell-cultured meat products and has also been funded by venture capital amounting to $150 million for both research and development and erection and operation of a pilot plant
- Blue Nalu and Finless Foods of California are developing cell-cultured fish products to supply high-value alternatives to tuna
The following characteristics appear to be common to all of the major recognized developers of cell-cultured meat: -
- Founders are invariably scientists with affiliation to departments of food science, physiology or medicine. They have earned recognized credentials and list peer-reviewed publications and patents in their resumes.
- The recognized and reputable companies in the field of cell-cultured meat are supported by venture capital and other investment groups that obviously subject their candidates to a level of due diligence and scrutiny commensurate with funding. Prudence dictates establishing the validity of claims and incorporate reviews and documentation of progress. Investors in companies developing cell-cultured meat extend beyond venture capital providers and prominent individuals. In some cases sovereign funds and governments supply direct and indirect support.
- The major developers in the field are assisted by experienced consultants and employ established credible scientists with expertise in aspects of cell culture, nutrition and food technology
- Results of development and milestones are generally published subject to appropriate patent protection. All of the developers can document a history of applying established scientific principles with progressive adaptation and implementation of innovations.
- All the recognized companies in the field have laboratory and pilot plant installations with fermenters and other relevant equipment in operation consistent with the stage of development of their products
- All of the companies have been reviewed and are covered by mainstream financial media with experienced journalists having access to laboratory and pilot plant installations. Interviews with both entrepreneurial management and scientists guiding development of products are released.
The major restraint to commercialization is to achieve a projected realistic cost comparable to both plant-based meat products and conventional meat from intensive livestock production. Some breakthroughs have been achieved through stepwise and consistent development and application of technology.
An appropriate regulatory framework for approval is the second major obstacle to availability. The E.U. has initiated reviews, eventually leading to approval of cell-cultured technology. Based on the glacial rate of drafting and finalizing regulations among twenty-seven nations, a regulatory framework is not expected for at least five years. In the U.S., the responsibility for cell-cultured meat will be divided between the FDA and the USDA-Food Safety and Inspection Service. This compromise over "turf" will delay approval and commercialization. Singapore has apparently approved regulations for cell-cultured meat. China will proclaim regulations when beneficial to state-affiliated enterprises
Public perception and confidence in the technology represents the third hurdle to general acceptance. Even at a competitive price there appears to be resistance to yet another "frankenfood" with strict vegans recognizing the origin of stem cells and eschewing cell-cultured meat especially if bovine fetal serum is used in the growth medium. Surveys have demonstrated some degree of willingness to try products, but at equivalent prices, few consumers are willing to switch to cell-cultured meat even with the claimed advantages of sustainability and welfare as motivators.
And then we have Eat Just, claiming availability of a cell-cultured chicken product promoted by Josh Tetrick. The various iterations of his company have over two decades produced an ersatz mayonnaise, cookie dough and a liquid egg product which can be used to prepare a scramble or as a substitute for eggs in food recipes. All of the products promoted by Tetrick, ad seriatum are based on existing off-the-shelf technology requiring negligible original technology or development. Recent media releases by Eat Just claim that cell-cultured chicken dishes are served in a gourmand restaurant in Singapore. It is characteristic of Tetrick to launch products in a high-end restaurant. Similar to Just Egg™ the as yet unbranded “meat” product was launched in a restaurant, the developers were chefs and publicity has centered mainly in vegan and specialty food websites and company releases.
If in fact Eat Just has produced a cell-cultured meat product it would be of interest to know where the R&D was conducted, the identity of the scientists and technologists involved and their academic affiliations and credentials. Above all, it would be critical to know where production facilities are located and for his company to extend the same level of transparency as the major developers of cell-cultured meat in the U.S., the E.U. and Israel. Venture capital investment with succeeding rounds is an important indication of legitimacy given the level of due diligence involved in assigning millions of dollars to a project or company. All of the legitimate aspirant producers have conformed to the financial regulations in their various jurisdictions and have declared with pride the identity of their investors. Anything less than reasonable disclosure, transparency and access to production facilities evokes parallels with the Theranos debacle.