Following all the developments in June and July, August marked a strong end of the summer for cellular agriculture. Cellular agriculture (‘cell ag’) is the field of growing animal products, like meat, from cell cultures instead of raising animals for the same products. Compared to the present livestock agricultural system, cell ag provides an alternative and sustainable way to produce animal products to meet the growing global demand for animal products. Without requiring animals. From closing investments to suing a state, this article will take a look at some of the key events during the month of August.
BlueNalu announced the close of their seed round by raising $4.5 million in funding to grow cultured seafood meat. BlueNalu’s seed round was led by New Crop Capital and featured 25 global investors. With so many investors, BlueNalu raised the largest seed round announced to date for any cell ag startup. BlueNalu dubs itself the first cellular aquaculture company, and BlueNalu hasn’t announced what their initial cultured seafood product will be. They are currently exploring protocols for finned fish, crustaceans, and mollusks.
Faunalytics released a survey stating that 66% of Americans would be interested in trying clean meat. Supported by the Good Food Institute, this survey contrasts from previous surveys about cell-cultured meat based on the language. Instead of asking people if they would like ‘lab-grown’ meat, consumers in the survey were asked if they wanted to try clean meat. Following an explanation on how this meat is grown, the majority of the surveyed people stated that they were willing to try clean meat as a replacement to conventional meat! While this is a possibly contentious term, it is positive that public perception is in favour of cell-cultured meat with proper context.
Cultured hamburger by Mosa Meat
Tyson Foods announced that it will buy Keystone Foods, the US chicken nuggets supplier of McDonalds. Tyson has previously invested in cultured meat company Memphis Meats and, in May, Tyson also invested in Future Meat Technologies $2.2 million seed round. What will this mean for the future of food? Could we see a cell cultured chicken nugget coming to market?
On August 23rd, Memphis Meats and the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) sent a joint letter to the White House to propose a regulatory pathway forward for cultured meat. This is the first time that a cell ag company and a meat industry player have come together to support a regulatory pathway that could appeal to both fields. It is interesting to note that, in their letter, Memphis Meats referred to their product as “cell-based meat” and not cultured or clean meat.
The joint letter proposes a pathway in which both the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulate cell-based meat. The FDA would be responsible for ensuring cell-based meats undergo pre-market safety tests while the USDA would be in charge of monitoring cell-based meat facilities. Until this proposal, both the USDA and FDA have stated that they should be in charge of regulating cultured meat (and other cell ag products). It will be interesting to see if this letter leads to a common regulatory pathway in which both institutions are involved.
Cultured Meatball by Memphis Meat
In May, the state of Missouri passed a law that banned plant-based products and cultured meat from using the word ‘meat’. According to the bill, meat can only come from the flesh of a slaughtered animal. That law came into effect on August 28, 2018, and so did the fight for the word meat.
The Good Food Institute (GFI), along with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, and plant-based company Tofurky, sued the state of Missouri to stop the law. They argue that the law violates the first amendment and the right to free speech by preventing the clear and accurate labeling of plant-based and cell ag meat. They also argue that the law was intended to protect the local (conventional) meat industry from out-of-state competition.
From the FDA public meeting in July to the joint-regulatory proposal by Memphis Meats and NAMI, government regulation continues to be a major theme and obstacle for cell ag. It is still early days into the GFI lawsuit against Missouri, but that case will have significant implication. The outcome of the case will set the precedence of whether other states can also pass legislation over the definition of meat. As the case progresses, we will keep you up to date on all the latest news and updates about the lawsuit.
Following the New Harvest Conference, the start of September brings the next conference in the field: The Good Food Conference by the Good Food Institute. The Good Food Conference is the only conference in the world to focus on the commercialization of both plant-based and cell-cultured meat, and the conference will take place on September 6th and 7th at the University of California in Berkeley, California. There will be a live stream for viewers who cannot attend the sold-out event!