UK startup Higher Steaks has produced the first-ever cultivated, lab-grown bacon.
Last week, the Cambridge-based company announced the world’s first prototype of lab-grown bacon rashers and pork belly. The slaughter-free meat products combine cultivated animal cells with plant-based meat for a sustainable alternative to traditional pork.
The pork belly is approximately 50 percent cultivated meat to 50 percent plant-based. While the bacon is around 70 percent cultivated meat to 30 percent plant-based.
“The production of the first-ever cultivated bacon and pork belly is proof that new techniques can help meet the overwhelming demand for pork products globally,” said Higher Steaks CEO Benjamina Bollag in a statement.
Cultured meat requires the in-vitro cultivation of cells collected from a living animal. Lab-grown meat is not technically vegan, as it is produced using animal tissue. But for the growing flexitarian demographic—and in light of pressing global environmental and health concerns—lab-grown meat provides a low-impact, sustainable alternative to animal agriculture.
“Our mission is to provide meat that is healthy and sustainable,” explained Bollag. “Without the consumer making any sacrifices on taste.” She added: “This is a major milestone for Higher Steaks.”
Around 30 cell-based, cultured meat startups have launched globally since 2014. MarketsandMarkets estimates the value of the global cultured meat market to reach $214 million by 2025. The market could reach upwards of $593 million by 2032.
“We have made substantial advancements in a relatively short amount of time whilst managing cash flow,” continued Bollag. “We are accelerating the development of cultured pork products and the company is now focused on the next steps to bring our products to everyone’s homes.”
The Problem With Pork
Pork is the most widely consumed meat worldwide, and overall demand is increasing. However, global pork production fell this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In contrast, vegan producers reported an increase in sales and interest in plant-based meats.
The spread of African Swine Fever (ASF) also presents a significant risk to the global pork supply. Approximately 40 percent of China’s 300-million pig pork industry has died or been euthanized since the disease took hold 13 months ago.
This has also prompted additional interest in alternatives to traditional meat. In Hong Kong, the sales of vegan pork tripled following the ASF outbreak.
Bollag indicated that increased awareness of the risks and impact of pork production could help highlight cultivated meat as a sustainable alternative.
While Higher Steaks’ cultivated bacon is far from going to market, the company expects to host a tasting event later this year.