Cargill Commits More Cash to Competitors


By Kayla Sargent

 

“We’ve successfully produced the first pieces of beef steak grown from natural cells, without harming any animals,” Aleph Farms CEO Didier Toubia announced.  “These first cell-based meat cuts demonstrate our capability of achieving our vision of growing steaks.”

On the heels of this announcement, one of the world’s largest beef processors declared their intentions to jump on the fake steak bandwagon.  Having already invested in Memphis Meats in 2017, Cargill Inc. said they will further their financial commitments to the “fake meat” industry. This time they chose an Israeli company that isn’t looking to replicate ground beef with plant-based proteins, but instead copy beef steaks by growing them in a laboratory.

“We’re getting closer to our vision of creating a cellular steak, providing the experience, look, and feel of a steak we all know,” Aleph Farms announced.  An Aleph Farms chef said the current cell-cultured “meat” they’ve developed has “a great look and the original texture of a steak.”

Sonya Roberts, managing director of growth ventures and strategic pricing for Cargill Protein North America, said consumer demand for protein is strong and expected to grow 70 percent over the next thirty years, meaning “there’s an opportunity for plant and cultured protein growth to complement our traditional animal proteins portfolio.”

Roberts said Cargill’s investment in Aleph Farms builds a partnership that “connects new frontiers in cell-based technology with insights in the global food system and supply chains to meet future customer and consumer needs.”

The startup company, co-founded by the food-tech investor group, The Kitchen, in 2017, raised $11.65 million in the recent round of investments.  Cargill’s portion of that investment was not disclosed.  Prior to that, Aleph Farms raised $2.25 million.

With added capital, Aleph Farms will be able to continue research and development in order to drive their product from prototype to the commercial marketplace.  The startup company hopes to move toward a limited product launch within three to five years.  Forbes reported the cell-based protein will be developed in “large, clean bio-farm facilities similar to a dairy facility.”

The process, according to Aleph Farms, involves taking cell samples from a live bovine and replicating them into a 3D structure “without the antibiotics, environmental footprint, contamination, and animal slaughter which comes with conventional meat production.” The end product — “Slaughter-free Steaks.  Real Bovine Meat.”  The company slogan boasts,  “Finally, meat you can enjoy thats good for your health and the planet.”

With their hefty goal and bold slogans, Aleph Farms hopes to “be part of the long-term solution,” Toubia said.  The company hopes to encourage an open dialogue with farmers and food producers alike, he said.  Toubia also noted that food safety and health are important factors and Aleph Farms “welcomes the collaboration with the USDA and FDA as an opportunity to promote transparency and build trust with all stakeholders.”

The Kitchen CEO Jonathon Burger said Cargill’s investment in Aleph Farms is encouraging.

“We are thrilled to see the same level of confidence from international food companies such as Cargill,” Burger said after describing his company’s “full confidence in Aleph Farms and their ability to create the world’s first cell-based meat steaks.”

Other cell-cultured protein proponents took note of Cargill’s investment as well.  Good Food Institute (GFI), a non-profit accelerating plant-based and cell-based meat, eggs, and dairy, called the investment “part of a growing shift within the conventional meat industry to drive and capitalize on meat production transformation.”

“We’re just at the beginning of a tremendous growth period for the cell-based meat industry, which is being spurred on with the support of the world’s biggest meat companies,” GFI Executive Director Bruce Friedrich said.

With global meat demand expected to double by 2050, Friedrich said, “companies like Cargill recognize the immense investment opportunity to diversify their portfolios and reap the profits as this nascent industry takes form.”

The recent round of investments makes Aleph Farms the third highest funded cell-based protein company globally, behind Memphis Meats and CUBIQ Foods, according to GFI.  Despite all the recent investments though, GFI said the “cell-based meat industry is still nascent.”  Cell-based protein investments were only 6 percent of those made in plant-based foods and .2 percent of cannabis investments in 2018, GFI reported.

“We all need to work together to address the increasing global need for protein in the coming years, especially as more consumers move into the middle-class and the demand for protein increases,” Cargill Protein North American President Jon Nash said. “We believe in the power of protein and the critical role animal protein will continue to play in nourishing the world for the long-term.”

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