The future of luxury and fine foods.
When you think about fine foods such as caviar, lobster, wagyu beef, foie gras, and bluefin tuna, what do they have in common? Apart from their high prices and exclusivity, they are also all animal-derived. It is common knowledge that some of these practices such as the production of foie gras involve serious ethical issues. Several countries even banned its production due to animal cruelty. Regarding bluefin tuna, for example, the harm associated with it is overfishing. The enormous demand from the sushi industry resulted in a huge decrease in the number of this species in the wild; and an increase in illegal fishing.
Apart from the usual regulations imposed on these industries (that may not always be effective), another solution is to eliminate the killing of animals altogether and replace it with cell-cultured versions of these products. This might have once been considered impossible or even pure science fiction, but the startups below will prove otherwise. Let’s take a look at some of the startups exploring cell-cultured fine foods.
In November 2020 Magic Caviar began its project as the world’s first cellular agriculture company to develop cell-based oocytes (unfertilized eggs) in vitro.
Caviar Biotec is another company developing cell-cultured caviar, emphasizing the ‘clean’ aspect of cell-based foods. They believe that this will be the caviar of the future as unethical practices will become more unpopular, even in the luxury world.
Shiok Meats specializes in cell-cultured seafood alternatives. The Singapore-based startup has created the world’s first cell-based lobster meat. At the end of 2020, the foodtech start-up introduced its prototype at an exclusive tasting event. The products were in the form of lobster terrine and lobster gazpacho.
Orbillon Bio is a startup working on heritage meats such as bison, elk, lamb, and wagyu beef. The company held a public tasting event to present its cell-cultured Wagyu, and it was a huge hit and resulted in a surge of interest.
Most recently, a team of researchers at Osaka University in Japan successfully 3D-printed Wagyu beef. They were able to take stem cells isolated from Wagyu cows to 3D-print the “meat alternative” that is mostly lab-grown Wagyu beef.
It seems fitting that it should be a French startup reinventing one of the most famous French delicacies, foie gras. Gourmey is developing an ethical product that moves away from force-feeding ducks and geese and towards a cell-cultured approach using a few cells from a duck egg.
BlueNalue is a company that focuses on cell-based seafood development. In particular, they are prioritizing bluefin tuna in hopes of making it more accessible to all while stopping illegal fishing. There is a great opportunity in this space to offer more sustainable and healthier fish. With the public’s awareness generated by viral documentaries such as Seaspiracy, we can only expect demand to grow.
It’s exciting to see that there is an opportunity in the luxury sector for cell-cultured fine foods. Especially in a field that is usually resists change.
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