Future Meat Technologies announces cultivated lamb, while Steakholder Foods gets into pork

Dive Brief:

  • Future Meat Technologies has made cultivated lamb in its facility and is preparing to make the meat at scale. The Israel-based company has been working on lamb since 2019, using fibroblast cells isolated from Awassi sheep to create two independent cell lines that divide indefinitely. It plans to produce a ground lamb product first.
  • Steakholder Foods — previously known as MeaTech 3D — also announced this week that it is creating cultivated pork meat. The company plans to produce both structured pork products — including bacon, pork chops and ham — as well as ground pork.
  • The developments come as cultivated meat companies are growing and scaling up, announcing plans to increase their capabilities and capacities. However, in most of the world, cultivated meat products have not received government approval to be sold or consumed.

Dive Insight:

If the regulations, funds, technology and distribution fall into place, it’s clear: Consumers could one day choose from many meat products that don’t come from animals. 

According to the Good Food Institute, there were 107 cultivated meat companies worldwide in 2021. And while newer ventures are producing meat ranging from lion to elephant from cells, seeing some of the more well-established companies branching out now means that there can be diverse animal-free meat choices in the nearer future.

Future Meat Technologies, which is one of the most well-funded independent companies in the cultivated meat space, has so far been concentrating on chicken production and may be one of the first to produce a cultivated offering for the U.S. market. Founder, President and Chief Science Officer Yaakov Nahmias said in 2020 that the company was already involved in discussions with the FDA to work toward regulatory approval. The company is currently looking for the location of its first industrial-scale plant in the United States. 

Steakholder Foods, which is based in Israel and publicly traded on the Nasdaq market, has several large development projects underway. The company started out working with beef cells, and first went public in Israel in 2019. Then it created a daughter company dedicated to creating cell-based chicken, and acquired cultivated fat producer Peace of Meat. Steakholder’s Peace of Meat subsidiary, which is currently building a cultivated fat pilot plant in Belgium, established a stable and unique line of avian cells earlier this year.

It’s not clear how long the path to potential commercialization is for Future Meat’s cultivated lamb or Steakholder’s cultivated pork. In a press release, Future Meat touted the popularity of lamb meat in the European Union — which is the world’s largest lamb consumer — and the Middle East, Northern Africa and parts of Asia.

However, as the company plans to move its primary production to the U.S., lamb may not be the best fit for the population. According to statistics from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Americans only eat about half a kilogram of lamb per capita a year. Future Meat CEO Nicole Johnson-Hoffman said in an email that the company will assess which products best meet consumer needs in different markets the company serves.

In an emailed statement, Johnson-Hoffman said that creating cultivated lamb shows Future Meat’s innovation potential. She said that the biggest difference between cultivating chicken and lamb is in the cell-culture media, which is tailored to provide the perfect nutrition to each type of cell.

“The key learnings will be leveraged as we work to produce other meats, including beef and pork, increasing Future Meat’s market offerings for consumers,” she said.

There are far more companies creating cultivated pork, though none of them seem to be as advanced in the cultivated meat development process as Steakholder Foods. Fork & Good, Novel and Meatable are all working on pork meat products, but they’re all still at the prototyping phase.

Of course, cultivated meat is almost completely at the prototyping phase right now. Only one country has granted approval for a meat product made from cells. In 2020, Singapore gave Eat Just the green light to sell its Good Meat cultured chicken bites. Several companies are working with government officials around the world to gain regulatory approval for their cultured meat products, and there is no way of knowing when those products will be cleared to hit the market.