British cultivated meat company Higher Steaks said it has managed to produce samples of bacon strips and pork belly made in a lab from cellular material.
The Cambridge-based food start-up hereby joins the competition with other companies targeting the alternative meat market. “There’s still a lot of work until it’s commercial,” said Higher Steaks chief executive Benjamina Bollag, “but the revelation of a pork belly product that’s made from 50% cultivated cells and a bacon product which contains 70% meat grown from a cell material in a laboratory is something of a milestone for the industry.”
The remaining ingredients in Higher Steaks bacon and pork belly are a mixture of plant-based ingredients, proteins, fats and starches to bind the cellular material together. To achieve this first step on its road to commercialization, Higher Steaks tapped the expertise of an undisclosed chef to formulate the meat into an approximation of the pork belly and bacon.
Bollag underlines, that this pilot is not the final product. “In the future it will be scaffolding,” she said. “It’s more showing what our meat can do and what we’re working on. In the future it will be with scaffolding.”
For the future, Bollag aims at providing healthy and sustainable products without the consumer making any sacrifices on taste. “The production of the first ever cultivated bacon and pork belly is proof that new techniques can help meet overwhelming demand for pork products globally”, Bollag comments in a statement.
Given the highly capitalised competitors that Higher Steaks faces off against, the company is looking for industry partners to help commercialize its technology. To improve its competitive position, Higher Steaks recently hired James Clark, the former chief technology officer of PredictImmune.
“I was always quite intrigued by cultured meat production, a mix of both science and food production. In 2013 I watched the first cultured meat burger from Mark Post costing £250,000, cooked on the BBC,” said Clark. “I was approached about joining Higher Steaks earlier this year and was attracted to joining primarily by the science along with the ambition and energy of the Higher Steaks founder Benjamina Bollag. I believe Higher Steaks is a company with a technology to be disruptive in the cultured meat area and at my career stage I was looking for a challenge.”
Brought in to scale the cultivated meat process at Higher Steaks, Clark has led the development of biotech and pharma products at early-stage and publicly traded companies. “The addition of James Clark to the team gives Higher Steaks a significant advantage,” said Ruth Helen Faram, head of R&D. “Cultivated pork belly and bacon have never been demonstrated before and Higher Steaks is the first to develop a prototype containing over 70% cultivated pork muscle, without the use of bovine serum.”
Consumers shouldn’t expect to see Higher Steaks’ pork belly on store shelves or in restaurants anytime soon, Bollag cautioned. “We’re still in the thousands of pounds per kilogram.” The company does expect to have a larger tasting event later this year.
//EVENT HIGHLIGHT: Webinar on Food Innovation | 30 July 2020//
Benjamina Bollag will be part of the EFIB Webinar on 30th July discussing upscaling challenges of sustainable food alternatives in the area of cultured meat and plant-based products.