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A “clean-meat” revolution is cooking in Israel

Would you pay $1,000 for a meatball? How about $18,000 per pound of ground beef?

That’s the cost of today’s prototype cultured meat (also called “clean meat”) produced in bioreactors from animal cells. Real meat made without slaughter and without fast-dwindling pastureland will make it to the dinner table only if it’s affordable.

Strategies to reach this goal were discussed at a May 7 gathering in Israel of top-tier researchers, government officials, NGOs and leaders of the cultured and conventional meat industries from Israel, North America and Europe.

Held at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa by the Israeli nonprofit Modern Agriculture Foundation (MAF) with sponsors including the US-based Good Food Institute, Future Meating was the first international conference to attract such a broad spectrum, MAF Director Yaron Bogin tells ISRAEL21c.

Even large meat processors Tyson Foods (US) and Soglowek Food Group (Israel) were represented due to their interest in expanding their lineup of more humane and earth-friendly sources of animal protein.

It was not coincidental that this gathering took place in Israel, the home of tissue engineering advances, innovative entrepreneurship and the world’s largest per-capita population of vegans.

“Israel is truly becoming leader in the field,” says Bogin, who has a doctorate in cell biology.

He points out that three of the six clean-meat startups in the world are Israeli: SuperMeat, established in 2015; Future Meat Technologies, founded this year; and a brand-new venture soon to be named.

These three join Memphis Meats of California, Modern Meadow of New York and Mosa Meat, the Dutch company working to bring clean-meat pioneer Mark Post’s so-called test-tube burgers to market. Post spoke at the Israeli conference as well.

Amir Zaidman, vice president for business development at the Strauss Group’s Kitchen FoodTech Hub in Ashdod – a sponsor of Future Meating – notes that Israel is already a world leader in stem-cell and tissue-culture science for medical purposes.

“A lot of the knowledge accumulated in Israel in those areas is applicable, with some adaptations, to developing and manufacturing clean meat,” Zaidman tells ISRAEL21c.

“This is why I believe Israel is a very good place to get a head start on creating clean-meat tissues that can later be produced in reactors and become a large-scale industry,” Zaidman says.

“The first markets will probably be the United States and Europe but it’s important for us to position Israel as the right place to start product development.”