The Van Trump Report

NEW Breakthrough with CRISPR Technology Makes Cell-Based Beef 1,000 Times Cheaper  

Cell-based meat – meaning products grown from animal cells rather than slaughtered – is a concept that has been possible for going on at least a decade now, yet has remained mostly unviable due to the exorbitant production costs. Cell-based chicken and seafood makers have made tremendous strides in that regard but beef has proven a lot trickier. Now, California-based SCiFi Foods claims to have made a major breakthrough that achieves as much as a 1,000x price reduction to produce cultivated beef at scale.

Some may recall when the first lab-grown burger was introduced back in 2013, which came with an estimated cost of $330,000. Since that time, some 70 different companies have worked to chip away at those costs and bring a product to market. SCiFi Foods co-founder and CEO Joshua March explains that the process used for chicken and seafood doesn’t work the same for beef which has complicated nearly every aspect of bringing a cell-cultured beef product to market.

Cell-based meat products are typically cultivated in giant bioreactors. But most cells when they are growing want to either cluster together on a surface or be attached to one another. March says companies working on chicken and seafood products have been able to grow cells in a tighter density and separated from one another — known as single-cell suspension — for a long time, helping them drastically lower costs.

No one has been able to get single-cell suspension to work for beef cells, though. Instead, beef cells had been grown on the surface of small plastic beads known as microcarriers which unfortunately take up space in the bioreactor, therefore limiting how many cells can be grown. That ultimately means smaller scale production, which equals a pricier product.

It’s a bit of a catch-22 because the most effective way to scale production is to grow the meat cells in a bioreactor. So the team at SCiFi used CRISPR to create beef cells capable of growing in a single-cell suspension. March said its cells are nearly identical to those coming from cows, with CRISPR modifications being very slight.

With this breakthrough, March thinks his company might be the first to put a cultivated beef product on grocery store shelves in the US. The first products aren’t expected to be all-beef patties, however. Instead, SCiFi Foods plans to produce a blended plant-based and cultivated beef burger. The cultivated portion will account for “less than 20%” of the total burger but the price is expected to come in under $10 at the companies pilot facility, which has a 1-2 million burger capacity. Once the company achieves “large-scale” production, March thinks the price could fall to under $1 per burger, though he didn’t specify what qualifies as “large-scale.”

March says that SCiFi Foods regards their cultured beef cells as an ingredient and argues that all the early-entry products in the space will be blended. That is partially due to costs but maybe to a greater degree for sensory reasons. March says that the cultured product, which has no mature muscle fibers, is more like a fatty meat paste. However, even a small amount of the cultured product supposedly makes eating a plant-based burger a more “meaty” experience.

SCiFi Foods, which was previously Artemys Foods, just emerged from stealth mode in June with $22 million in funding, which includes backing from Andreessen Horowitz. If everything goes according to plan, March expects the pilot facility should be completed and operational in the second half of 2024. Learn more about SCiFi Foods HERE.  (Sources: TechCrunch, FoodDive, FoodNavigator)

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