World's first lab-grown-meat factory opens in Israel
Comment of the Day

June 25 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

World's first lab-grown-meat factory opens in Israel

This article from newatlas may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The first lab-grown burgers cost more than US$300,000 apiece to produce back in 2013. Bit by bit, however, we're seeing progress in driving these costs down to the point where mainstream outfits like KFC are getting in on the action. Future Meat Technologies says it is the only company to be able to produce cultured chicken breasts for $3.90 a pop and, as it continues to scale up its operations, it expects those costs to fall even further.

"After demonstrating that cultured meat can reach cost parity faster than the market anticipated, this production facility is the real game-changer," says Yaakov Nahmias, founder and chief scientific officer of Future Meat Technologies. "This facility demonstrates our proprietary media rejuvenation technology in scale, allowing us to reach production densities 10-times higher than the industrial standard. Our goal is to make cultured meat affordable for everyone, while ensuring we produce delicious food that is both healthy and sustainable, helping to secure the future of coming generations."

Eoin Treacy's view

Plant based burger patties, like Beyond Meat, taste nothing like the real thing in my experience. Beyond virtue signalling and the trend towards vegetarianism, I can’t see they will displace demand for meat products. Lab-grown meat on the other hand has all the physical characteristics of animal tissue but is grown from the atomic level to the finished product. That’s a very different prospect.

Huel is a UK company that markets nutritionally complete shakes. It’s a vegan product and gaining in popularity. It is particularly popular among younger people with limited resources and time.

The challenge for this kind of company is meals are social occasions. If we have learned anything from the pandemic it is that physical social interaction is a vital ingredient of what it is to be human. That suggests the shake-based solution is only capable of going so far. Food is so enmeshed in culture that we are not simply going to dispense with it.

Let’s consider the lab grown diamond market as an example of how a physically identical product brings pricing transparency and a viable alternative for buyers. Lab grown diamonds have successfully decimated the market for stones with less than 1 carat weight. The creation of benchmark pricing (Rapaport) was the first big challenge for the sector. Then the cost of lab-grown stones and the resulting demand even forced DeBeers to sell them. There is still a market for big and fancy stones but the smaller stone portion of the market has become incredibly competitive.
Interestingly, the price of 1 carat stones tend to trend with the broad agricultural commodity sector despite the market’s idiosyncrasies. I have no idea what is behind that correlation but it may speak to basic income growth globally.

The cultured meat sector is a perfect example of how some sectors are capable of accelerated growth in a very short period of time. This is particularly true of the healthcare sector where the confluence of greater genetic understanding, editing, growth engines and organic 3-D printing are driving innovation at a much faster pace than Moore’s Law.

Organovo pioneered the development of bioprinting but it has no earnings and issues new shares every few years to cover expenses. The sector is blossoming but there is no evidence that Organovo will be the company that benefits from commercialisation. It’s focus on supplying tissue for the biological research sector is probably too conservative to attract the investment needed to really prosper. 

Chicken is about the most homogenized product there is. Most consumers are so conditioned to accept factory farmed meat that they think free range birds taste funny. I didn’t fully appreciate that until my father started keeping chickens. Tuna and cod are also homogenised outside of very high-end establishments.

Protein intake trends higher with standards of living. That’s well documented and unlikely to change particularly as the merits of muscle mass for aging people is better appreciated. Rising cost of animal protein are a clear incentive to come up with alternatives. That’s particularly relevant for countries that have habitually imported like the Middle East, China, Asia and Africa. There will always be a market for high end natural products but as technology improves it will be increasingly difficult to tell the difference with homogenised products.

Ultimately, the size of the machines required to bioprint proteins and other genetic materials will shrink to the size of a refrigerator. At that point, perhaps a decade hence, it will become a ubiquitous tool that will revolutionise supply chain management, the home cooking experience and bring closer the Star Trek-like replicator.

A number of large companies have experience making bioreactors so the question is whether that expertise can be deployed to labgrown meat and tissue.

Danaher remains in a steep but consistent medium-term uptrend and hit a new all-time high this week.

Merck KGaA is also still trending higher in a consistent manner.

Thermo Fisher unwound its overextension relative to the trend mean and continues to firm within its range

Sartorius is also firming from the region of the trend mean.

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