FDA Addresses Cultured Meat in Crucial First Step for New Industry

“There are no great mysteries when it comes to cell culture. This technology has been around for a long time,” said Jeremiah Fasano, a consumer safety officer focused on biotech and food additive safety at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Fasano was speaking at a July 12 public meeting in Maryland where scientists, lobbyists, and entrepreneurs gathered to discuss a crucial hurdle between much-hyped cultured meat products and consumers: regulation.

The purpose of the meeting was to “give interested parties and the public an opportunity to comment on these emerging food technologies.” The technologies in question are the processes often referred to as cellular agriculture, which scientists and entrepreneurs are working to use to create slaughter-free meat products at scale – often called cultured meat or lab-grown meat. 

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Five Cultured Meat Startups Raise Funding as Fledgling Industry Comes into Focus

So far in 2018, at least five startups using cellular agriculture, the science behind cultured meat that can be used to manufacture many animal products in a lab setting, have raised funds as this fledgling industry diversifies and grows.

First in January, SuperMeat, an Israeli cultured meat startup, raised a $3 million seed round to develop its cultured chicken product. Also that month, Tyson Food Ventures joined Memphis Meats’s $17 million Series A round, originally announced last August.

In March, Wild Earth,  a Berkeley, California-based startup focusing on pet food raised a $4 million seed round. Just a few weeks later, The Wild Type, a San Francisco-based startup raised a $3.5 million seed round to focus on culturing salmon.

Perfect Day Foods, a California startup using cellular agriculture to produce dairy products raised a $24.7 million Series A round earlier this month.

And though its not quite funding news, it is also notable that, JUST (formerly Hampton Creek), which has forecasted that it would have a cultured meat product on shelves this year, lost its director of cellular agriculture and another leading researcher in January, who then incorporated a company called Mission Barns, according to Gizmodo. The JUST positions have since been filled. 

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What Do Farmers Think About Cultured Meat?

It’s no secret that many efforts to enhance animal welfare through the promotion and development of plant-based alternatives to animal products may not be good news for farmers. The tension often comes out in lawsuits around using words like “milk” to describe products that contain no dairy, but the emotions and fears run deeper.

Cultured meat — meat manufactured in a laboratory using cellular agriculture techniques traditionally used in the medical field — is another new technology that has the potential to fundamentally change market dynamics for livestock farmers all over the world.

The day before National Farmers Day in the US, a panel discussion at the New Harvest Conference in Brooklyn, New York on October 11 sought to discuss the impact of the nascent cellular agriculture industry on farming. New Harvest is a nonprofit research institute dedicated to the advancement of cultured meat.

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Cultured Meat Will Cost Startups $150m-$370m (and Take At Least 4 More Years) to Bring to Market

There is a reason that high profile investors and entrepreneurs — and therefore media outlets globally — are getting increasingly excited about alternative protein-based food sources.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that animal agriculture contributes to around 15% of greenhouse gas emissions of which 60% comes from cows getting consumers. And with increasing demand for protein from the developing nations of the world that have typically only been able to afford plant-based diets, the situation seems critical.

Consumer demand for protein is still at all-time highs in developed countries too, but increasingly cognisant of the resource-intensive nature of animal agriculture, these consumers want alternatives as the vegan movement spreads across the western world.

Innovators and entrepreneurs are therefore creating solutions that aim to cut animals altogether from the meat industry with alternative meat substitutes.

The most prolific and successful alternative meat approach to-date uses plant proteins to try to mimic the taste and feel of meat, commonly in the form of burgers. But there is also a small subset of startups using cellular agriculture to physically culture meat in a laboratory.

The first lab-grown burger was produced in 2013 by Mark Post, a Dutch professor of vascular physiology who is founder of Mosa Meats. After taking muscle stem cells from a cow’s shoulder in a gentle biopsy, he used established tissue engineering methods to painstakingly nurture the 20,000 individual muscle fibers that made up the burger in several large flasks in his lab at Maastricht University in The Netherlands. 

That burger famously cost around $1.2 million per pound, and while entrepreneurs and enthusiasts in the space argue that the cost will, and already has, come down as technology advances, there are still some question marks about how long and how much money it will take before these meat options actually hit our plates.

Read the full story at www.AgFunderNews.com.