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To the casual onlooker, nothing separates the lab-grown meat that Steakholder Foods (NASDAQ: STKH) allows you to print from the conventional edible meat, until you dig a little deeper. While there are several companies in the meat industry betting on meat alternatives, Steakholder Foods offers the technology that will power the entire global cultivated meat market.
As Arik Kaufman, CEO of Israel-based Steakholder Foods puts it, “we are recreating Star Trek and that is amazing.” The comparison is from the magical replicator in the popular science fiction TV series that could create meals on demand. However, Kaufman is not one to deal in mere fantasy. “What we are doing here is a scientific feat,” he notes. The startup is scaling up a process to help companies print meat products. Also known as cultured meat, this is made from animal cells rather than slaughtered animals. Steakholder Foods is also currently in a collaboration to print fish products, starting with eel and grouper.
According to Steakholder Foods’ website, the 3D printed meat that the company’s proprietary technology helps to print is “made up of muscle and fat tissue grown from animal cells and being developed to be indistinguishable from farm-raised meat in taste, texture and smell”. Steakholder Foods intends to lead the industry in terms of technological support while servicing the cultured meat sector — a sector McKinsey estimates will be worth $25 billion global business by 2030.
Leading the pack with 3D technology and key collaborations
Commenting on the company’s 3D technology, Kaufman claims its “the first high-output bioprinter that can print at a very high pace, with extreme precision and while keeping the cell viable throughout the process.”
“We start off by creating bio-ink from the cell lines we have carefully selected for this task. We then load the bio-ink into the 3D printer, send a command to start printing, and voilà — an entire cut of meat is printed,” he says.
Steakholder Foods recently received a grant of $1 million from the Singapore Israel Industrial R&D Foundation (SIIRD) as part of its collaboration with Singapore-based Umami Meats. Speaking on the impact of the collaboration, Yair Ayalon, Vice President of Business Development at Steakholder Foods, notes that industry collaborations are a critical aspect of the company’s long-term business strategy.
“Our partnership with Umami Meats is especially meaningful following our recent patent application for fish texture and because it is being supported by a joint Israeli/Singaporean government initiative of which we are very proud to be a part,” he adds.
The first prototype of the product is expected to be ready in the first half of 2023. It will be printed with Steakholder Foods’ proprietary 3D bio-printing technology and bio-inks that will be customized for the cells.
The collaboration will enable Steakholder Foods to deploy its cutting-edge 3D bioprinting technology, developed by a team of the company’s in-house mechanical engineers and cellular biologists. The way the meat is created is that at first, two special kinds of bio-ink are produced using lab-cultured animal cells — one for muscle and one for fat. After that, the product is printed layer by layer, in which the two bio-inks are applied in a variety of different sequences. By having precise control over the application of both inks, the juiciness and marbling of the cut can be optimized.
In addition to that, the technology allows the 3D printing of the product in any shape, width, and marbling ratio. The result is a delicate piece of tasty meat that can be prepared for a delicious meal.
Global dominance with technology at scale
According to a 2017 article published in The Guardian, raising livestock for human consumption generates nearly 15% of total global greenhouse gas emissions, which is greater than all transportation emissions combined. It also uses nearly 70% of agricultural land, making it the major contributor to deforestation, biodiversity loss, and water pollution.
While that article is nearly six years old, much hasn’t changed today. Agriculture — including livestock — still contributes to 11% of greenhouse gas emission, per a report by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
But with the advent of meat printing, it’s now possible to solve this greenhouse menace. In fact, a new study suggests that making adjustments can halt the pileup of greenhouse gas emissions for 30 years. So, it’s not surprising that governments around the world are becoming more interested in cultivated meat, while also enacting and enforcing necessary regulations to check and rectify any potential anomalies.
As Steakholder Foods begins to make inroads into the United States, the company is super-focused on ensuring its technology is of the highest standards and aligns with regulations. “It is amazing to see the advancements regulatory-wise in the US market. We are working towards regulatory submissions in Singapore and the US,” says Kaufman.
More on the technology
The Steakholder Foods printer gained industry-wide interest in the second half of 2022 when the company embarked on a world tour with a prototype, printing steaks on demand at conferences and events in three continents. According to Kaufman, “we are leveraging this interest to accelerate business collaborations and strategic partnerships for the purpose of commercializing our 3D bio-printing capabilities.”
Recently, Steakholder Foods announced the acquisition of a trademark in Japan, which has been in talks about a regulatory framework for the production and consumption of lab-grown meat in the country. In a letter to investors at the end of 2022, Kaufman stated the ambition for the new year: “The team at Steakholder Foods is pushing forward to submit products for approval in Singapore, and the USA in 2023.”
Ideally, the product will have to pass the stringent test that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will administer on it. However, the Steakholder team is undaunted and certain of its technology’s quality and capacity to empower players in the cultivated meat industry to print meat at the highest hygienic level.
“Cultivated meat is also referred to as ‘clean meat’ for a good reason. It is produced in a clean environment, without hormones and pathogens and provides a much safer solution for ‘lab to table’ unlike the ‘farm to table’ options we know today,” says Kaufman.
“For cultivated meat, our technology ensures the process can be completely monitored and transparent from the producer to the end-consumer,” he adds.