Why Mission Barns believes cultivated fat is the key to better plant-based meat

Mission Barns is ready to launch.

The company has a new 32,000-square-foot headquarters and plant in San Francisco. It has figured out how to make fat from animal cells quickly and relatively inexpensively. It has a product partnership already in place with Silva Sausage, and it is talking to more companies about potential partnerships down the line. And it has $28.4 million in funding, according to Crunchbase, having closed a $24 million Series A round last year.

Mission Barns is missing just one thing, and it’s a big one: the OK from the USDA and FDA to use cultivated fat in food products. But company CEO Eitan Fischer said he is sure it’s coming soon.

“We’ve already submitted the full complete package of information that we and our counsel believe are satisfactory to establish the safety of our product,” Fischer said, sitting in the tasting kitchen at Mission Barns’ new headquarters in San Francisco this spring. “…We’ve collected all the data and all the testing that from initial consultations with regulatory agencies in the U.S. and internationally would be required to establish the safety. So really, all we’re waiting now is on the government to come back to us and say, ‘We agree with your conclusion.’

“And we want them to do so publicly, right?” Fischer continued, gesturing to plates of Mission Chorizo Sausage — made with plant-based ingredients and cultivated fat. “We want consumers to know that this is safe — not just because we’ve established that it’s safe, but people have reviewed it, and they agree with us. And so I think the moment that we have that, we intend to start offering this to the public.”

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Courtesy of Mission Barns

 

Fischer thinks the public is ready for Mission Barns’ cultivated fat. He first got involved in cultivated meat after he realized that although people care about sustainability and animal cruelty when it comes to food, they still want to eat what they want to eat. 

“If someone wants to eat pork, give them pork,” Fischer said. “If someone is used to since their childhood tasting those flavors, give it to them — do not convince them to become vegan. Give them a product that contains pork, that tastes like pork because it is pork. Allow them to continue to eat the products they love, but without all of the [larger issues].”

On a mission

Fischer grew up around animal agriculture, both in the south of Israel and the United States, where he moved as a teenager. He wanted to make food in a different sort of way, getting away from the sustainability and animal welfare issues that have been omnipresent in the animal agriculture sector.

Fischer started out as the director of cellular agriculture for Eat Just, formerly known as Hampton Creek, as the company announced it was getting into the cell-based meat space. At Eat Just, he worked on making prototypes of cultivated chicken and foie gras, and left in 2018 to start Mission Barns.

As he thought about what products to create through cell cultivation technology, Fischer considered the areas that no other companies had been working on in the space. He wondered which components were most missing from plant-based products. And he wanted to choose something that could be developed in a fairly easy and quick way.

All of those questions, he said, pointed at animal fat as the answer. Fat cells grow more quickly than those for muscles, Fischer said. Unlike muscle cells cultivated for meat cuts, which need a precise amount of amino acids and other nutrients, fat cells can grow on much cheaper nutrients like sugars. Fat cells don’t need to be in any sort of defined shape or format, unlike meat cuts. And, Fischer added, fat cells just like “to sit there and accumulate more and more mass really quickly.”  

“We could grow, we believe, fat about 10x more efficiently than muscle,” Fischer said. “And so for that reason, we think we will have 10 times as much product and we’ll be at cost parity 10 times faster.”

The tasting area at Mission Barns’ San Francisco headquarters.

Permission granted by Mission Barns

 

Fischer didn’t say where the costs of Mission Barns’ fat are at the moment, but said that he expects it will start out as a premium product. As the company scales, however, he anticipates it will become commonly used in a variety of products ranging from those that are high-end to those available at fast food restaurants and discount retailers. The company’s new headquarters contains a pilot facility that Fischer said will be able to supply a handful of restaurants and stores, but there are plans to build a commercial-scale facility with much larger output once the product receives approval.