Cell culture media formulas are a closely guarded secret in the nascent cell-cultured meat industry, says Bangalore-based Richcore Lifesciences. However, they typically contain water, amino acids (lysine, arginine etc), sugars (glucose), salts, vitamins, buffering agents, recombinant proteins (albumin, transferrin etc) and growth factors (FGF, IGF, TGF etc), which send signals to encourage cells to do certain things such as proliferate or differentiate. And catalog prices for the latter can run into thousands of dollars a gram, which is fine if you’re using them to culture cells in a laboratory, but presents challenges if you’re using them to produce tons of meat, said Richcore Lifesciences, which has 15 years’ experience in producing recombinant proteins from various microbial expression systems (such as bacteria and fungi) for the pharmaceutical industry, and is now turning its attention to food.
Today, Aleph Farms announced a platform for the commercial production of its cultivated beef steak. The company says this platform will allow it to eventually produce meat grown from cells of a living cow affordably at scale, putting its cultivated steak at price parity with factory farmed meat. The new production process is the first part of a phased build-out of what Aleph Farms is calling its BioFarm, a pilot plant the company intends to have fully operational by 2022.
Having won the first battle — getting consumers interested enough to try plant-based foods, and investors interested enough to fund them — plant-based meat companies are setting their sights on a bigger challenge: getting plant-based meat products as cheap as animal meat products are. The plant-based meat industry has to be bigger to compete with animal products on price — and competing on price is a key component of getting bigger as an industry.
The product launch comes at a time when meat has been getting a lot more expensive. Prices for meat, fish, poultry and eggs rose 3.7% in May from April, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Beef and veal prices were up 11%, the largest ever monthly increase. “We know that to be successful we have to win on taste, win on nutrition, and ultimately win on price,” he wrote. “If we can do those three things, we see tremendous opportunity to transition consumers from animal-based to plant-based meat.”