Monday, February 6, 2023

Growing caviar and foie gras could be important for biotech companies

  • Several companies are vying to bring lab-grown meat to supermarkets, but it’s an expensive endeavor.
  • Some entrepreneurs see greater potential in lab-created luxury products, where a premium can be charged.
  • Wow Foods went so far as to create a lab-grown protein called Morsel, which costs $300 a pound.
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The race for biotech companies to sell lab-grown meat to supermarkets is on: Israel’s SuperMeat is working on lab-grown poultry, as is Upside Foods in Tennessee. A rival Israeli company, Aleph Farms, is betting on cell-culture steak, and Finless Foods in California is working on animal-free tuna.

All of these biotech companies promise to introduce cruelty-free proteins in the coming years; However, each is following the same strategy which can lead to stumbling blocks for one important reason: money.

The economics of making lab-grown meat make mass-market products impractical; Simply put, it is too expensive for even the most discerning eco-conscious consumer in comparison to its natural counterpart.

As a result, some industry insiders told Insider they saw more potential in a different market: premium products like caviar or foie gras, which can fetch hefty prices without consumers complaining.

“It’s clear to me that we need to create something that is small volume, high value,” said Isha Datar, CEO of New Harvest, a nonprofit focused on the cultured meat industry.

Woman With Glasses Smiling
Isha Datar says that there is more potential for lab-made proteins in the luxury sector. diana levine

Lab-grown proteins could have significant environmental benefits. A recent study from the University of Oxford found that the production of lab-grown meat could produce 96% fewer greenhouse gas emissions. This can reduce water and land use by 4% and 1%, respectively, for conventional agriculture.

There is also a high demand for alternatives to animal meat. McKinsey predicted that the worldwide market would become a $25 billion industry by the end of the decade. In turn, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved it for human consumption in the United States late last year.

Ken Benning is an entrepreneur hoping to find the right combination of profitability and sustainability in the laboratory market. As CEO of the UK’s Exmoor Caviar, a favorite of the British royal family, he plans to introduce an entirely new product under the Caviar Biotech brand: lab-grown caviar.

“We’re copying eggs in a big way,” Bening told Insider. “If you can produce the same thing, it tastes good, and it’s sustainable, it’s a no brainer.”

A Man W
Ken Bening is the CEO of Caviar Biotech. jemima bening

His argument, like Datar’s, is that consumers have limits on how much they will spend on everyday foods such as beef; However, they are probably willing to spend more for luxury items like caviar.

“If they have to pay £50 for a burger, they won’t buy it,” he said. “But our modeling of what we’re doing starts with a huge difference.”

Benning said he wasn’t trying to lower the farm-gate price of his cattle roe: He expects to charge between $136 and $272 per pound, which is cheaper than the traditional product but much more of a bargain. is far.

“We will maintain value and therefore perceived value,” he said. “We are more driven by the ethical value of the product because today being ethical is the new luxury. Our goal is not to produce cheap caviar.”

The Laboratory
The Wow Food Lab, where Morsel, a new type of lab-grown protein, is made. Cameron Ramsey

Other biotech companies are targeting the luxury niche for similar reasons.

Gourmey de France is working on a lab-grown counterpart to foie gras and intends to grow livers in the lab harvested from duck stem cells to replace the traditional method of force-feeding. London’s Primeval Foods focuses on farmed meat that would otherwise be banned for conservation reasons: think lion, tiger and panther. and Perlita in Raleigh, North Carolina, focuses on oysters. Datar said the startup had received a pushback because the organisms it is replacing are naturally regenerative, not resource-intensive, such as cows and many other mammals.

Fasting Food Smiling Man
George Peppu, founder of Wow Foods, which is making lab-grown proteins. Cameron Ramsey

George Peppu, founder of Wow Foods, has taken lab-grown food a step further by attempting to create an entirely new product. He argues that when there is no real life equivalent, you can set your own prices.

The morsel, as it is called, is a protein that is a unique hybrid of two animals (he declined to say, citing a pending patent).

“But what I will say is that you get the wonderful umami grilled meaty flavor as well as the deliciously aromatic, light, savory flavor of seafood,” he said.

To find just the right flavor, they turned to chefs who emphasized good mouthfeel and the ability to utilize 100% of the product (in other words, no need to remove fat or bone). The morsel meets all of these requirements, Peppo said.

A Dish Of Food
Vowel meal presented in an onion ring with morsels broth. Anil Riard

The morsel will soon be available in Singapore for $300 a pound, which is comparable to the price of sea urchin roe, he said. It’s the right testing ground, Peppu said, given the country’s four-year-old 30 by 30 sustainable food initiative, in which it has pledged to produce 30% of its food needs by 2030; A difficult target in a country as dense as Singapore with little traditional agricultural land.

“We are using cultured meat technology to produce meat that is better than animal production,” Peppo said. “It’s about having your cake and eating it: It’s delicious and enjoyable, but also nutritious and sustainable at the same time.”

now read: Lab Meat Isn’t Actually Free From Animal Sacrifice – It Uses Fetal Bovine Serum

Read also: Nestlé partners with a startup that produces lab-grown meat from cell culture

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Nation World News Desk
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