Israel is the global hotspot for alternative meat technology. The country’s growing population and limited farmable land, and climate change-induced water shortages have motivated Israeli companies to focus on developing cultivated meat as an environmentally-sustainable alternative.
Alternative meat can mean a lot of things: it can be meat made in a lab using original meat or animal cells to create chicken or beef or fish; it can also mean creating meat-like proteins from plants or insects. But cultivated meat is meat that is real meat, made in a warehouse from original meat or animal cells, and which removes a lifetime of misery and pain for any animal by taking the animals out of the story.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog have publicly endorsed cultivated meat by investing $18 million USD and allowing Israel to ultimately lead in alternative meat and protein production.
Israeli start-up companies and academic labs dedicated to advancing cultivated meat technology has become a national research and development priority for Israel. And Israeli rabbis have essentially declared cultivated meat to be “non-meat” by agreeing its kosher status to be parve, the same as bread, apples, and vegan foods we eat today. It is classified to them as neither meat nor milk.
In 2021, Israel accounted for nearly a quarter of venture capital dollars invested in cultivated meat start-ups globally. Consider that three of the first eight cultivated meat companies in the world began in Israel, and today all three of them —Aleph Farms, Super Meat and Believer Meats, along with the new Nasdaq-listed Steakholder Foods—are poised for international distribution once the cost of producing these cultivated meats can be at par with traditional meat.
The top cultivated meat companies from Israel
Believer Meats, formerly known as Future Meat Technologies, is a cultivated meat company excited to scale to feed the world. Driven by a mission to ensure that all future generations can enjoy real and delicious meat, Believer’s technology and process will make meat accessible and affordable to all. Believer Meats culture meat from chicken cells and is working on cultured lamb kebabs and beef burgers. Based in Israel, its main office is located in Jerusalem, while its primary production facility is operating in Rehovot.
Aleph Farms invested in by people like Leonardo DiCaprio, grows cultivated beef steaks, from non-genetically engineered cells, that are not immortalized, isolated from a living cow, without slaughtering the animal and with a significantly reduced impact to the environment. The company was co-founded in 2017 by Didier Toubia, The Kitchen Hub of the Strauss Group, and Professor Shulamit Levenberg from the Biomedical Engineering Faculty at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. The company’s vision is to provide unconditional nutrition for anyone, anytime, anywhere.
SuperMeat also from Israel is developing cultivated chicken meat, grown directly from cells, in a sustainable and animal-friendly process.
BioBetter is creating complex proteins for the cultivated meat industry. They apply advances uses in the lab for making vaccines in tobacco plants to procure proteins that can be used for cultivated meat companies. Consider them a raw material supplier to the alt meat industry.
Steakholder Foods, formerly MeaTech 3D “STKH” (formerly MITC), is developing a slaughter-free solution for producing a variety of beef, and seafood products — both as raw materials and whole cuts — as an alternative to industrialized farming and fishing. They are developing 3D meat printing machines.
This past summer, the United States Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drugs Administration approved the sale of cultivated meat in the US, which is a landmark decision marking it safe for consumption. Until now the only country that allowed sale of cultivated meat to the consumer was Singapore. Two prominent US companies, Upside Foods and Good Meat, successfully introduced their “cultivated chicken” at a cost that competes with regular meat. Not long ago companies such as Aleph introduced steaks but at a cost of thousands of dollars an ounce to produce.
According to the MIT Technology Review, Upside, one of the companies that received approval from the FDA, can churn out 50,000 pounds (22,600 kg) of completed goods annually. It will eventually be able to increase to a maximum annual capacity of roughly 400,000 pounds (180,000 kg).
How is cultivated meat made?
Compared to meat alternatives cultivated meat is made in a lab from real meat. It takes harmless existing cells from an animal and growing them inside what scientists call a cultivator. This cultivator mimics what occurs inside an animal’s reproductive organs to give the cells warmth and the environment necessary to transform it into meat. This includes proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.
A cultivator is very similar to growing plants inside a greenhouse. Eventually, the product produced is the same as regularly processed meat at a cellular level. However, it is made in a much more environmentally-friendly way, according to founders of the company.
The emergence of cultivated meat represents a significant milestone in the quest for sustainable food production. With the tagline of “meat without slaughter,” these products offer a humane and environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional animal agriculture. Cultivated meat technology holds tremendous promise for resource conservation.They can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and alleviate the strain on land resources.
The Israeli population has also shown a growing interest in alternative diets. A survey conducted in 2017 revealed that 5% of Israelis identify as vegan, 8% as vegetarian, and an additional 23% expressed a desire to reduce their meat consumption.
Even the Israeli army has embraced alternative proteins, providing vegan meals and animal product-free gear to recruits. While cultivated meat may not appeal to those who altogether avoid animal products, it is expected to resonate with individuals who are already concerned about the environmental impact, inefficiencies, and ethical concerns associated with conventional animal farming.
Approving lab-grown meat for sale or as parve for observant Jews marks a significant step towards a more sustainable future. As more countries and companies embrace alternative proteins, cultivated meat has the potential to revolutionize the food industry and address pressing global challenges such as climate change, resource scarcity, and animal welfare concerns.
This article was created with contributions from Green Prophet’s 2023 intern Ariel Weil.