As if 2018 hadn’t been exciting enough for the good food community, Israeli food tech startup Aleph Farms has unveiled the world’s first steak grown directly from cells. Feast your eyes:
This is a groundbreaking advancement for clean meat. Hitherto, we’d seen ground meat products but no steak or specific cuts of meat. Growing complex three-dimensional tissue structures is one of the most notable challenges in cell-based meat research and development. Co-Founder and CEO of Aleph Farms Didier Toubia explains:
Making a patty or a sausage from cells cultured outside the animal is challenging enough, imagine how difficult it is to create a whole-muscle steak...We've transformed the vision into reality by growing a steak under controlled conditions. The initial products are still relatively thin, but the technology we developed marks a true breakthrough and a great leap forward in producing a cell-grown steak.
The production cost for their minute steak prototype is just $50. It’s the “steak” factor that’s dominating the headlines, but this price tag is also jaw-dropping. The world’s first clean meat burger in 2013 cost $325,000 to produce. By comparison, a cost of $50 for a whole-muscle product is a sign of major progress. Aleph Farms attributes this to animal-free serum (another significant technical challenge tackled—and also HUGE news) and innovations in the cultivators used to grow the meat. As Aleph Farms continues to optimize their process, the production cost will drop further.
(Want a refresher on the ins and outs of clean meat production? Check our GFI Senior Scientist Dr. Liz Specht’s Clean Meat 101.)
Aleph Farms was co-founded in 2017 by The Kitchen, an Israeli food-tech incubator funded by Strauss Group and the Israeli Innovation Authority, and by the Technion—Israel Institute of Technology. Through this partnership, Aleph Farms developed the bio-engineering platform that can grow a three-dimensional cut of meat with a relatively low production cost. Aleph Farms’ landmark achievement in creating the world’s first cell-cultured minute steak is a prime example of how powerful cross-sector partnership can be in this nascent industry. It illustrates the catalytic role universities and governments can play in developing cost-competitive clean meat.
While many technical challenges have yet to be addressed to bring clean meat to scale, this industry is developing faster than projected. Even a few years ago, it was optimistic to think clean meat would be commercially available within a decade. Now we see advancement after advancement at a clip that vastly outpaces even the most hopeful of yesteryear’s expectations.
This progress is due in part to the diversity of startups and the global momentum behind this field. In just a short space of time, Israel has become a world leader in this space. As GFI’s Managing Director of Israel Or Benjamin points out, “With an innovation-oriented culture, critical research infrastructure already in place, and a vibrant plant-forward food scene, Israel is ideally positioned to play a catalytic role in advancing the global plant-based and clean meat market.”
Innovations in Israel and around the world are game-changing for the global food system.