Updated March 2020. A Dutch-based food tech startup called Meatable promises to deliver the most affordable and least invasive lab-grown meat yet. The company has developed technology to completely eliminate the need for removing tissue from animals. Thus paving the way for clean, cruelty-free, slaughter-free, and lab-grown meat.
“Clean,” “cell-based,” or “lab-grown” meat is an innovative form of protein production. The process bypasses the need for animals in the farming of meat. Scientists have produced several meat products such as chicken, duck, pork, and beef by using cell tissues from an animal. These tissues are initially removed without killing the animal, but according to Business Insider, scientists often feed these cells with fetal bovine serum. This serum comes from slaughtered cows, which upends the “slaughter-free” claim of clean-meat producers.
However, Meatable has now partnered with Cambridge University to develop a true slaughter-free meat using pluripotent stem cells. The company manipulates these into any type of cell without the need for fetal bovine serum. Other clean meat startups avoid pluripotent cells, citing the difficulty of manipulating them. Yet Meatable and Cambridge University say they have created the technology to address this issue. And completely circumvent the need for animals in the process.
Many clean meat companies typically take their cells from a small piece of tissue from a live animal. But Meatable banks a baby’s stem cells at birth by taking them from umbilical cords. Meatable’s CEO, Krijin De Nood, explained the process to Business Insider. “This way, we don’t harm the animals at all,” he said. “And it’s material that would otherwise get thrown away.”
As of 2018, the company raised $3.5 million from three venture capital firms—BlueYard Capital, Atlantic Food Labs, and Backed VC—and numerous angel investors. At first, Meatable focused on the development of cost-efficient beef burgers and sausages, with a view to moving on to other animal products in the future.
The Dutch startup recently moved to pork production in the wake of the ongoing swine flu epidemic. Meatable has raised approximately $10 million to support its research into clean pork. This includes $7 million from another group of angel and institutional investors. In addition to a $3 million grant from the European Commission.
De Nood told TechCrunch that the new investments would be used to accelerate product development. A small-scale bioreactor, originally targeted for development in 2021, will now be ready later this year. According to De Nood, Meatable plans to have an industry-scale plant manufacturing thousands of kilograms of meat by the year 2025.
While it may still be some time until Meatable’s cruelty-free product lands in the market, consumers could see lab-grown and clean meat by JUST appear sooner. JUST CEO Josh Tetrick says the company’s first product will see an initially limited release, likely at a restaurant.
Other companies like Mosa Meat (the creator of the first clean meat burger in 2013) and Memphis Meats hope to debut clean meat products by 2021. Daan Luining, Meatable’s chief technology officer, has predicted that the company’s beef products will be available in select Netherlands restaurants in four years—around 2022.