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article imageLab-grown meat startup raises funding to bring product to market

By Karen Graham     Jul 17, 2018 in Technology
Mosa Meat is a Dutch company that presented the world's first lab-grown beef burger five years ago. Now the company says it has received funding to pursue its plans to make and sell artificially grown meat to restaurants starting in 2021.
Mosa Meat, based in Maastricht, announced on Tuesday it had raised 7.5 million euros (US$8.8 million), mainly from M Ventures and Bell Food Group, among others.
M Ventures is the corporate venture capital of German science and technology company Merck KGaA. Basel is the investing group for Switzerland-based Bell Food Group, the country's leading meat processor.
"The funding helps us create an end-to-end production process for cultured meat at significantly reduced cost. It will also prepare us to build a pilot production facility (we tend to call it the “meat brewery”) for a small-scale market introduction of premium meat in 2021," Mosa Meat said in a news release.
Professor Mark Post  a pharmacologist and co-founder and CSO of Mosa Meat  presents a hamburger in L...
Professor Mark Post, a pharmacologist and co-founder and CSO of Mosa Meat, presents a hamburger in London in 2013.
Mosa Meat / media photo
An emerging technology
In 2013, Professor Mark Post, a Dutch stem-cell researcher unveiled the world’s first slaughter-free hamburger to a packed press conference in London. That single serving beef patty cost more than $300,000. This is because the burger was harvested directly from cow cells, rather than raising and slaughtering a whole animal, and literally handmade.
The technology needed to produce cultured meat requires using muscle cells and then applying a protein that triggers tissue growth. When Post produced his first burger, it really was handmade, fiber-by-fiber from cow cells in Petri dishes
“We knew very early on that if we would scale up production . . . that the cost would come down to about $10 for a hamburger,” says Post. (He also notes that the initial cost of the hamburger, based on making something from scratch for the first time, was “ridiculous,” and that he shared it in part to help people understand that it wouldn’t immediately be in stores–so that they wouldn’t harass him about where they could buy it.)
Southern Fried chicken  made in the laboratory using a new technology.
Southern Fried chicken, made in the laboratory using a new technology.
Photo by Memphis Meats
But to bring the cost of "clean meat" down to a level consumers can afford requires the use of massive, 25,000-liter bioreactors. This is where beef or poultry cells are fed nutrients and oxygen and then grown into tissue that can be made into beef or chicken.
According to Digital Journal writer, Dr. Tim Sandle, "As the process starts, meat is produced. In theory, this can go on indefinitely, although this has yet to be tried. In theory, at a practical level, two months of cultured meat production can produce up to 50,000 tons of meat from just ten pork muscle cells."
Mosa Meat now has that technology and is prepared to scale-up with the bioreactor. “That’s basically the biggest advance that will get us to $10,” says Post.
The company has changed the basic process just a little bit. They now culture some fat tissue, along with muscle tissue, to make the “meat” juicier and tastier. The first samples also didn’t have much myoglobin–a protein that gives meat its red color and some of its taste and nutrition, which the new production process has also improved.
Lab-grown beef.
Lab-grown beef.
Mosa Meat / media photo
Marketing Mosa Meat
By 2021, Mosa Meat plans on selling its products in restaurants and specialty stores at first. This is only because of the limited supply. Production levels will have to be scaled up before the clean meat will be available in supermarkets.
And the meat will sell at a premium cost compared to regular burgers. “We know where to improve the technology to get the price down,” Post says. Getting the price of the lab-grown meat down to a level that consumers will be able to afford may happen much quicker, owing to the number of startups working on this biotechnology.
Memphis Meats, based in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, has also developed a way to produce meat directly from animal cells. They successfully produced the world's first "clean meatball" in February 2016 and the world’s first "clean poultry" in March 2017.
File photo of inspected beef carcasses tagged by the USDA. Do consumers have the right to know where...
File photo of inspected beef carcasses tagged by the USDA. Do consumers have the right to know where there food comes from?
And this will be good for the environment and will certainly help in providing food security to the world, providing a sustainable means of feeding the growing population. “Part of it is really that I think everybody in the industry, at least the people I’ve talked to, realize that livestock meat production will become a problem, and there’s currently no good solution for it," says Post.
Bell, a meat producer, saw the potential for cultured meat “When we approached them, they immediately said, ‘Oh, we would like to produce this,'” says Post. “Which for a meat processing company makes a lot of sense, because they will become independent of supply.”
More about mosa meats, M Ventures, cellgrown meat, Bioreactor, food sustainability
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