Large-scale production of cultured meat is currently facing major hurdles. To get around this, an Israeli company is using tobacco plants as bioreactors to produce the needed growth factors. These factors are very expensive and come from slaughtered cattle.
Aside from the question of marketing, the whole issue of lab-grown meat lies in the ability of producers to find a solution to produce it on a large scale. In Israel, one company may have managed to do this using an unexpected ingredient: tobacco!
Back to Israel. This is where the subject of in vitro meat began to flourish. The start-up Aleph Farms is one of the first labs trying to grow meat from stem cells. One has to leave the Tel Aviv area, where this new form of production has surprised since its inception in 2017, to discover a new stage in the saga of cultured meat.
Toward the northern border with Lebanon BioBetter, another startup specializes in producing the culture medium needed to reproduce cells so that they eventually resemble a steak. The company, founded by a researcher at a Jerusalem university, offers a cost-effective alternative for those hoping to commercialize lab-grown meat by growing tobacco plants.
Before the cells become a piece of meat, they need amino acids, nutrients, and growth factors to grow. The growth factors needed for scaling up the production of lab-grown meat are very expensive. The challenge of large-scale production lies in the simple fact that fetal serum from slaughterhouses is no longer used.
In fact, many companies are currently working to find a more ethical and cheaper solution without bovine fetal serum. The private company BioBetter highlights the economic benefits of its technology, pointing out that the production of these growth factors will only cost one dollar per gram.
Israel has become an important destination for “lab-grown meat research. Currently, the country has 10% of the companies working on this subject in the world. The companies involved have invested more than $500 million through 2021, the largest envelope after American start-ups (about $700 million).