The Israeli company has brought cell-based meat closer to the mass market by drastically reducing the cost of producing its chicken breast
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Spotted: Concerns over global warming, health, and animal welfare, coupled with a rising demand for meat, are driving a huge growth in cultured meat (meat grown in a lab from animal cells). Recent surveys indicate that consumer attitudes are also beginning to change, with up to a third of consumers—including a large number of vegans—saying they are willing to give it a try. One limitation on the growth of this industry has been cost – until now, cultured meat has been orders of magnitude more expensive to produce than the real deal. However, this is starting to change.
In February 2021, Believer Meats (formerly Future Meat) made the headlines when it announced it had reduced the cost of a single cultured chicken breast to $7.50. Just 10 months later, the company has managed to bring the cost down to $1.70. They achieved this thanks to their innovative approach and methodology. Instead of using stem cells, Believer uses much faster-growing fibroblasts, which can grow as muscle or fat. In addition to increasing speed of production, the method can produce cell densities that are 10 times higher than the industry standard.
Believer Meats also uses a growth medium (the nutrient-rich substance in which the cells are grown) that is completely free of any animal components. Instead of animal protein, the company uses a growth medium containing plant-based proteins from items such as chickpeas and soy. Not only does this eliminate some of the objections to cultured meat from vegans and vegetarians, it also reduces the cost of the medium. Believer also claims its stainless-steel fermenters continuously remove ammonia-based waste products from the growth medium, which allows the company to recycle more than 70 per cent of the nutrients in the growth medium.
With the prices brought down, the next step for the company is to scale up its technology to supply the mass market. Yaakov Nahmias, president of Believer Meats has commented that, “The next challenge is to build a large-scale facility that can actually address the needs of the American market — and reach not only small-scale restaurants with Michelin stars and chefs serving tiny pieces of chicken, but actually getting into retail. It’s gonna take some time, but this is exactly where we’re going.”
To help the company with its expansion, Believer has recently raised $347 million in Series B funds, the largest single fundraising to date for a company in the cultivated meat space. But others may not be far behind. At Springwise, we are watching this space closely, including the growth of 3D-printed meats and the mass production of cultured steaks.
Written By: Lisa Magloff