Israeli Company Future Meat Technologies Meets Growing Demand
One rapidly burgeoning meat market megatrend, as it is being called by some, is that of lab-grown meat—no animals yet organically grown meats nonetheless. The trend has already been making waves in recent years, but it’s growth is greatly catalyzed by Tyson’s sizable investment in Israeli biotech, Future Meat Technologies.
Tyson Foods, Inc. (NYSE:TSN) is the second biggest producer and seller of beef, chicken and pork behind only JBS S.A. It’s a multinational corporation headquartered in Springdale, Arkansas, U.S.A., and because of its raw size and the breadth of its meat marketing, major shifts on the part of Tyson Foods can often signal shifts in meat market trends.
It’s an investment that says a lot about how the world’s meat marketers see consumers and how demand for alternatives to traditional meat is skyrocketing. Some experts like those at Meat and Livestock Australia fee that it’s even threatening to rival traditional meat demand because lab-grown meat is vying for hegemony at a time when plant-based meat has already proven just how many consumers care about this. Some care because they want to end any and all animal cruelty, and though not everyone agrees that farming and slaughtering animals for food is cruel, it’s apparent that consumers often don’t want to encourage it when they find out it’s avoidable.
Future Meat Technologies CEO Rom Kshuk tells Globes last Wednesday that the “Global demand for protein and meat is growing at a rapid pace, with an estimated worldwide market of more than a trillion dollars, including explosive growth in China. We believe that making a healthy, non-GMO product that can meet this demand is an essential part of our mission. Cultured meat production may also be eco-friendlier than traditional meat production. We want to feed the world while protecting the environment.”
What Future Meat Technologies brings to the table, though, is arguably a different situation altogether, and the novelty thereof is, in fact, attributable to the makeup of this meat. It’s the real thing, which is what makers of plant-based meat can’t say about their respective products. FMT produces meat using animal cells to generate what amounts to ground meat from that animal. In other words, they take cells from a cow, for example, and thereby engineer in vitro ground beef with which to process it for marketing. To be clear, what’s NOT being done so far is using a chicken’s cells to produce a thigh or a leg in the same way because, of course, most meat naturally comes in a very complex form with bone, sinew, fat and muscle all as part of a singular structure.
Tyson Ventures, the investment arm of TSN, invested $2.2 million seed investment in the Jerusalem-based biotech, and it’s being put to intriguingly exemplary use relative to the rest of the global meat market and those who could be construed as competitors of FMT. The firm is building a distributive manufacturing arm with which to become a major provider of non-GMO, truly organic meat in as cost-efficient a way as possible. The firm’s creation of the requisite technology makes production cost-efficient when it comes to producing muscle and fat cells. The company has publicly stated that the seed money will be used to forge new engineering activities and enhance research and development. They’re now recruiting not only biologists but engineers and chefs, which speaks to the intersectionality of their business. It’s an interdisciplinary science being used to create a product that represents a fundamental human need, which is sustenance.
According to Haaretz, a TSN executive VP named Justin Whitmore, has said, “This is our first investment in an Israel-based company and we’re excited about this opportunity to broaden our exposure to innovative, new ways of producing protein. We continue to invest significantly in our traditional meat business, but also believe in exploring additional opportunities for growth that give consumers more choices.” In the beginning, FMT produced its meat at a whopping $5,000 per pound. That was based on the process set in motion by Yaakov Nahmias’s research; Nahmias is the Hebrew University professor who ended up founding FMT, now serving as the company’s Chief Science Officer. The technology itself is licensed via Yissum.
Today, FMT produces its meat at around $400 per pound, and they claim that, by 2020, the cost of production will range between $2.50 and $5. In a Globes article on the subject, Nahmias is quoted as having personally explained that it’s “difficult to imagine cultured meat becoming a reality with a current production price of about $10,000 per kilogram. We redesigned the manufacturing process until we brought it down to $800 per kilogram today, with a clear roadmap to $5-10 per kg by 2020.” The pride of the company’s product is its genuineness—the fact that it’s organic AND that it undergoes no genetic modification whatsoever. Its production creates the means by which the increasing demand for meat and protein can be met worldwide, it helps curtail the omnipresent food shortage crisis, it saves animals from slaughter and provides a greener way to produce and market meats.