An Israeli start-up produces cultured meat with… tobacco

Cultured meat is divisive, but continues to grow. But although they are increasing in number, the companies that produce it face several obstacles: the approval of its marketing in the European market and the ability to achieve large-scale production. In Israel, a company may have found a solution to the latter problem, thanks to an unexpected ingredient: tobacco. Light on this unlikely find.

In Israel, the subject of cultured meat began to hatch. In 2017, the Israeli start-up Aleph Farms was indeed the first in the world to make a steak from stem cells. But since then, the subject has left the Tel Aviv metropolitan area to reach the north of the country. Not far from the border with Lebanon, the start-up BioBetter specializes in the production of the culture medium necessary for the reproduction of cells, which should resemble a steak. Founded by a researcher from a University of Jerusalem, the company has found an economical alternative to developing large-scale cultured meat using tobacco plants. A first.

Get rid of fetal bovine serum

To understand the importance of this discovery, it is necessary to return to the cultured meat production process. Before they become a steak, cells need amino acids, nutrients, but also growth factors to reproduce. All these elements, which are very expensive to producers, are found in the fetal bovine serum collected from slaughterhouses and used for this culture. The challenge of large-scale in vitro meat production therefore lies in the elimination of fetal serum. “Companies are currently working on a more ethical and cheaper solution without fetal bovine serum”said Jean-François Hocquette, a researcher at the National Food Research Institute (INRAE) at the start of the year.

So BioBetter would have found the solution: tobacco. Indeed, the Israeli company has decided to exploit the inherent benefits of tobacco plants by converting them into bioreactors for large-scale protein production. A solution that is not only more ethical, but also more economical: growth factors from tobacco plants would only cost one dollar per gram, according to BioBetter.

Israel, a leading cultured meat destination

This Israeli discovery could very well be imitated and disseminated elsewhere in the world. “The worldwide trend towards less smoking is making tobacco growers afraid that this crop will eventually become obsolete. Still, the tobacco plant has enormous potential to become an important part of the future of food.”said Amit Yaari, CEO of BioBetter in a press release.

Israel has become a major destination for “meatless meat” research. According to the echoes, the country has 10% of the companies engaged in this topic worldwide. The companies involved have invested more than $500 million in 2021, the largest amount behind that of American start-ups (about $700 million).

(ETX Daily Up)

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