Have innovators cultivated the solution to meat-free protein?
In 2020, the cultured meat industry witnessed a landmark moment when the product was sold for the first time as a chicken burger in a Singapore restaurant. The cultured chicken meat on sale was produced by industry leader Eat JUST, a FoodTech company, and creator of popular egg substitute JUST Egg, in which I am an investor. Since then, the industry has seen unparalleled levels of VC and PE investment.
With such remarkable strides being made across the sector, it is certainly an exciting time to be an investor in this space. In particular, I am excited to see where Josh Tetrick, founder and CEO of Eat Just, can lead the industry to.
Cultured meat, also known as lab-grown, clean, or cultivated meat, is grown from small samples of animal stem cells in a process that can take between two and eight weeks. The cells are encouraged to duplicate in a bioreactor and this process eventually creates unstructured meat, which can then be used to produce more traditional meat products, from burgers to nuggets and even steak. In some instances, the use of ‘scaffolding’ components made of soy protein or gelatin is used to shape the lab-grown meat.
The benefits of this production method are that it reduces carbon emissions from livestock, decreases deforestation, prevents antibiotic resistance among livestock, and limits the chances of contamination during the production process. Disrupting meat production, it could be argued, lies at the heart of any serious attempts to tackle climate change, reduce water stress consumption, and protect the world’s wildlife.
It is also a crucial challenge to the questionable ethics of industrial-scale animal farming. While livestock takes up most of the world’s agricultural land, it only produces 18 per cent of the world’s calories. Moreover, in dietary terms, with increasing incidences of chronic illness and disease having been definitively linked to consistent meat consumption, the ability for scientists to adjust fat and cholesterol levels in cultured meat products will prove especially significant.
Cultured meat has been called the ‘wave of the future’ and offers a potentially environmentally friendly and humane alternative to the traditional meat industry. The challenge lies in being able to scale current production methods and reach the mass market. Technology lies at the heart of this solution, and I have no doubt that the world’s leading FoodTech innovators will develop solutions to allow for its true disruptive potential to flourish.
Nicole Junkermann is a leading international entrepreneur and investor, focused on disrupting traditional business models through industry-defining technologies. Junkermann is the founder and Principal of NJF Holdings, a London-based private investment company with a portfolio across Europe, the U.S., and Asia. NJF Capital, the venture capital arm of NJF Holdings, has assembled an investment portfolio of more than 40 companies across industries as diverse as healthcare, FinTech, FoodTech, and Deep Tech. With experience sitting across both sides of the investment table, Junkermann brings a unique perspective to identify visionary entrepreneurs with pioneering business ideas.