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Poland Joins the Race to Produce Cell-Cultured Meat

FOOD & AGRICULTUREPoland Joins the Race to Produce Cell-Cultured Meat

Alternative meat sources, such as cell cultivation in bioreactors, are going to become increasingly important in the coming years. Efforts to “grow” meat have been ongoing for at least two decades and it is expected that another 10 years will be needed before it enters the market. Currently, the barriers remain in the technology that would allow for mass-scale production, the high cost of products manufactured in this way, and consumer reluctance. Regulatory challenges will also arise, which will enable the introduction of cellular meat into the market and for consumption.

It’s been a decade since the taste test of the first burger grown using in vitro methods by scientists at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands. This was just a symbolic moment, as the first patent for meat production in the tissue engineering process was granted in the USA in 2001. Three years ago, the first restaurant serving poultry burgers from a test tube was opened in Israel.

– “In the United States, two companies in several high-profile, star restaurants are already selling their cell-cultured meat. Although it is still in very limited quantities, it is actually already happening,” says Maciej Otrębski, strategic partnerships manager at RoślinnieJemy, co-founder of the Polish Association of Plant Food Producers.

Cellular agriculture on a larger scale seems inevitable and not a distant vision. For the sake of the climate, a transformation of food systems, including meat production, is needed. According to Chatham House analysts, crop growing and animal farming occupy half of the inhabited areas of the world, with almost 80% of agricultural land designated for animal farming. Food production has become a major cause of biodiversity loss. Instead of wild animals, farmed animals, mainly cows and pigs, dominate the global biomass. Experts warn that the food system is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than any other human activity. In light of the deepening climate crisis, test tube meat production may become important in the coming years.

-“Ultimately, such products are to help relieve the planet, so production should be less costly for environmental systems, for our climate. The second issue is that cell-cultured meat will not be the compromise that some consumers settle for when choosing plant alternatives. I think the customers will primarily be those who do not want or cannot quit eating meat. According to forecasts from the Food and Agriculture Organization, meat consumption will increase by 70% by 2050,” notes the expert. – “So I don’t think we will be wondering how to decrease this consumption or change this trajectory, but more about how to provide meat in a manner that is ethical, friendly to the planet and which gives us the ability to meet this demand in twenty years or so.”

According to data referred to by RoślinnieJemy, by 2035, the share of cell-grown meat in the global protein market could even reach 22%, subject to regulatory and technological support. In the coming decades, startups in this sector will take a significant share of the $1.7 trillion market from traditional meat producers.

– “Today, we can talk about approximately 100, maybe 150 companies, scientific projects that are involved in this area. However, there are still many bottlenecks that hamper the mass commercialization of this product, primarily it is a matter of scaling production. Achieving what many companies are already managing to under laboratory conditions proves to be a challenge in more mass production.” -highlights Maciej Otrębski.

The Congressional Research Service in its report “Cell-Cultivated Meat: An Overview” cites data that currently the wholesale cost of producing 1 kg of such meat is on average $63, and in retail it exceeds $100 per kilogram.

Another obstacle is legislative issues. Currently, only products made from in-vitro meat have been approved for human consumption in Singapore, Israel, and the United States.

“In Europe this process can be quite long due to the fact that it is somewhat a new food and the process of its approval by the European Food and Safety Authority, the European equivalent of our sanitary inspection, can be time-consuming. An important role can be played here by decision-makers, governments, who should ensure that when the technology and the possibility of scaling have reached that level where we can produce such meat, there are regulations that facilitate this commercialization,” assesses the co-founder of the Polish Association of Plant Food Producers.

However, this is not obvious, as there are countries that do not hide their aversion to the introduction of in-vitro meat to the market. The Italian Parliament recently finished work on regulations that prohibit the production of such meat and its trade.

In Poland, the company LabFarm is working on producing cellular poultry meat and plans to launch a pilot line in 2025. The production will begin with the collection of stem cells from the animal. The cells will then be transferred to a bioreactor, which will mimic conditions found in a living organism. As a result, the cells will begin to divide, creating whole structures. After several weeks, meat ready for consumption will be produced, free of antibiotics, pollutants and by-products. The creators of LabFarm predict that cellular poultry meat will be on our tables within the next three to four years, provided that the appropriate legal regulations appear.

– “I heard that a company appeared which plans to cultivate cell-grown caviar in Poland. So this topic is also rapidly evolving on the Vistula and is no longer just a pipe dream for the future,” says Maciej Otrębski.

As he emphasizes, cell-cultured meat is one of several innovations that are changing and driving the food industry in its plant alternatives segment.

– “There are two paths of innovation. On the one hand, improving taste, texture, nutritional value. And here a very interesting theme is precise fermentation, which is a method of food production using fermentation processes, known for example from the production of pickles, sauerkraut or pickled cucumbers, but under very controlled conditions. This allows, for example, the transformation of yeast into other substances, such as whey, with an appropriately designed process of precise fermentation. Thanks to this, we have the possibility of producing products that are not only alternatives to, for example, animal whey, but really have such a profile as this traditional, animal product. This is a great opportunity for everyone who produces food and for example strives to reduce costs. Of course, a big innovation is also mycoproteins, which is protein of mycelium origin, and this is also an area that is dynamically developing,” the expert lists.

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