Lab grown burger

Maastricht’s lab-grown meat moves to commercialisation

The commercial sale of lab-grown hamburgers to affluent and adventurous consumers could be just five years away, claims the Maastricht University researcher, who has led work into the highly innovative field of in vitro meat research. Two years after a $250,000 artificial meat hamburger was presented to the world’s media to much hype, the technology has entered a new stage, with commercial viability moving significantly closer.

Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst after a press conference that preceded the recent 1st International Symposium on Cultured Meat, Prof Mark Post of Maastricht University revealed the launch of a new company to initially be called MosaMeat [“mosa” is the Latin name for the river running through Maastricht], which he will co-head together with CEO Peter Verstrate, and will be founded at the university.

“We target that within five years we will have a product on the market that is both approved and the result of large-scale production. We think that we can have that scale in place in one to two years and then have that regulatory approval, so that we can have the first product on the market in four to five years.”

The company is currently looking for €6-million in funding for the first 3.5-4 years of development work, with the hope of building a bioreactor in or around the campus that would initially produce 5 000 litres of material, before upscaling to 25 000 litres.

At 5 000 litres, the technology would still be far too small scale to be put onto the market, but if a 25 000 litre bioreactor could be put into action, a kilo of artificial beef product that would be suitable for hamburgers, could be produced for about €60 per kilo. This is a 30x factor on conventional beef, which has a current market level of €2 per kilo.

But at this level, it would be enough to feed 10 000 people per year with beef by European standards, and it could therefore be put on sale at exclusive restaurants at a high, but no longer ridiculous price level. Taking continued technology development in the area into account, the company may be able to produce artificial beef at the same price level as conventional beef, just five years further down the line.

The process for creating cultured beef relies on taking muscle cells from a cow, which are cultured in a laboratory by scientists who place them in a nutrient solution to create muscle tissue. The tissue is grown by placing the cells in a ring, like a donut, around a hub of gel. The muscle cells grow into small strands of meat. Some 20 000 such strands are need to make one 140g burger.

Speaking about the recent progress, Post explained: “We launched the proof of concept in London two years ago, and we realised that the product wasn’t perfect. We needed serum to grow the cells, there was no fat in it and we had no large scale production. We have worked on all those areas. We have grown cells without serum. It is not perfect yet, but it is improving. We are growing fat cells and tissue, so that we can mix it with skeletal muscle to get a better product. And we are starting to scale up these development technologies.”

Post noted that the spin-off company of the university is primarily aimed at scaling up production, which you cannot do within the walls of an academic establishment. “You will need larger scale investments, but also a different set-up. And we will have to go through regulatory approval, so that is being done within the company,” he commented….. Read the full article here