Plant-based diets are getting increasingly popular. Apart from moral and health concerns, meat-eaters are attracted to the idea of plant-based meat for two other reasons.
The first reason being environmental protection and raising awareness of the harmful effects mass meat production causes. Second, the science that goes into fake meat production is perfected as well. Recent scientific achievements went a step further and introduced ‘clean meat’.
In this publication, we are looking into details about what clean-meat is and which investments, stocks, and shares are available to participate in this food revolution.
What is clean meat?
Clean meat is real meat acquired without slaughtering the animal. It is known by many different names such as cultured meat, cell-based meat, cultivated meat, and is created in a laboratory environment to reduce the number of animals being killed for food.
Artificial meat is created out of animal cells. The cells are extracted from the muscle tissue and then nurtured until multiplied. Cells grow into strands and strands are combined to create meat.
Even though clean meat production is still in the early stages, there are already plenty of startups creating animal-free meat and leather with the funds raised through venture capital. If advertised and developed as a business artificial meat could replace the traditional one and bring huge environmental benefits.
Factory farming requires vast land, energy, and water consumption. Predictions are that by the year 2050 the global need for meat would increase by 70%. The amount of vacant arable land would not be sufficient to produce enough meat for the global population. Cell-based meat production calls for 95% less land and could in theory free up thousands of hectares. Also, it will help slow climate changes as the kettle produces methane that causes greenhouse gas emissions.
What is ‘plant-based’ meat?
Plant-based meat (PBM) is meat made out of plants. The purpose of creating PBM is for it to resemble the actual meat in texture, smell, and taste almost entirely. Nowadays, one can find such products in the frozen food sections of most supermarkets.
Plant-based meat is made out of vegetable protein turned into meat-like products and can come in the form of steaks, burgers, nuggets, sausages, ground meat, crumbles, shrimp, and many others. These forms of PBM are divided into two categories, restructured meat, and whole muscle meat. Restructured meat group encompasses sausages, ground beef, nuggets, etc. While whole muscle meat products impersonate chicken breast, steak, and other animal muscles.
Multiple health concerns could be put to rest if more people turned to traditional meat alternatives. Recent scientific research shows that frequent consumption of processed and red meat is linked to an increased mortality rate. A high intake of red meat is associated with different types of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Moreover, the World Health Organization classified meat products such as bacon, beef jerky, and sausages as cancerogenic and other red meat products such as beef, lamb, and pork as most likely cancerogenic.
Simply put, plant-based meat is healthier as it doesn’t contain cholesterol, a fat-like substance present in meat and dairy products. While, on the other hand, full of fiber, a healthy nutrient missing from animal products.
Apart from growing health concerns, recent environmental developments are also pushing the meat revolution forward. Plant-based meat is better for the environment because it is much more sustainable than conventional meat. Traditional meat production requires vast amounts of land and is one of the main causes of deforestation which, in turn, is driving climate change. Besides, PBM production causes almost ninety percent less greenhouse gas emission than conventional meat production, less water pollution, and is overall much kinder to the planet.
The history of plant-based meat
It is difficult to pinpoint when and where did the veggie meat originate. Reportedly it has been flourishing in Asia for centuries. Fake meat was originally intended for people transitioning to vegetarianism. In the sixth century, vegetarianism was formally adopted by Chinese Buddhists. By the thirteenth century, faux meat turned into a culinary specialty served to visitors of the monasteries and Buddhist pilgrims.
According to an article by the New York Times, the modern-day PBM movement has roots in the 1970s and was forged by a book ‘Diet for a Small Planet’ by Frances Moore Lappé. Lappé stressed how turning to vegetarianism may help solve world hunger as lesser amounts of food would go to animals and will feed people instead.
The first alternative meat production kicked off around ten years ago when a company ‘Beyond Meat’ started making plant-based burgers. The company founder claimed that if they manage to create meat that would be identical in taste, smell, and texture as the one derived from animals, there wouldn’t be any reason for meat consumers not to turn to a plant-derived alternative.
How faux meat is made
Chris Davis, the Director of Research and Development at Impossible Foods, a company famous for creating the Impossible Burger, explained the process of creating fake burgers.
He explained the first step is understanding what makes the beef taste so delicious. The researchers made a list of all the features beef has and placed it in a database. They went on to search for a plant-based substitute that would be able to mimic these features. What they found was that soy-based burgers didn’t provide a realistic taste. On the other hand, potato protein and textured wheat offered a satisfactory texture.
The next step was to isolate an ingredient that gave beef its flavor. That ingredient is called ‘heme’. Heme is a molecule that can be found in the muscle and it is what most of the beef is made of. Researchers found that they can use yeast to replace heme and create similarly flavored burgers. Finally, they added coconut oil as a replacement for fat.
Another famous veggie burger is the ‘Beyond Burger’. Unlike the Impossible Burger, it is created out of pea protein, coconut, and canola oil for fat and beet juice to mimic beef blood. These burgers can be purchased in meat sections of grocery stores.
Difference between ‘plant-based’ and ‘clean meat’
Removing animals from the meat production process eliminates plenty of rising concerns when it comes to the environment, hunger, climate, and health. So far there are two approaches to creating meat without using animals, plant-based meat (PBM) and cell-based meat (CBM). In addition to traditional PBM such as Tofu, a new approach considering enhanced sensory characteristics has been in use not long ago. CBM is produced by cells of muscles or fat instead of living cattle, chicken, and pigs.
The main ingredients of PBM are fairly inexpensive. Plant-derived meat is usually made of pea protein, wheat protein, or soy. According to USA farmers, the prices of these proteins are several times lower than the cost of maintaining factory farms. Ingredients like soy or wheat are often added to animal meat to reduce the cost of manufacture. Nevertheless, the retail cost of veggie meat still tends to be the same or higher than the traditional meat prices. The potential cause of this may lay in the fact that additional fat and colors go into the PBM and, subsequently, are raising the cost.
Cell-based meat is a relatively new concept and it didn’t find its way to retail yet. What may hinder the commercialization process is the cost of production. The first laboratory-grown burger was made in 2013 and it cost 280.000$ to create. The burger was more of an attempt to prove the feasibility of lab-grown meat rather than an effort to start production at that cost. In 2008, The In Vitro Meat Consortium estimated that CBM may double the cost of chicken due to the manufacturing expenses. Another study conducted in 2014 suggests that one kg of lab-grown meat may cost somewhere from 11$ to 520$.
Protein-based meat is regulated like other non-animal meat. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) are responsible for approving all food for public safety. Most of the ingredients PBMs are made of have already been approved for consumption. New ingredients would need to be evaluated by the government bodies before they are added to any of the products. The European Commission introduced an ‘EU Protein Plan’ in 2018. The plan supports the manufacture of alternative proteins for human use.
When it comes to CBM, in the United States its production will be under the jurisdiction of the FDA and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). FDA will regulate development, storage, and cell isolation while USDA will monitor the remaining process of placing the product on the market and labeling. Potential hindrances to the regulation process may occur if manufacturers decide to use GM cells as an ingredient. Both animal meat alternatives share the same likely issue with labeling. In other words, will regulatory bodies allow traditional meat alternatives to be labeled as ‘meat’?
The acceptance of PBM products varies from country to country. The welcome rate in China and India is close to 95% while in the USA that number is around 70%. The willingness to distance from animal-based products(ABM) is quite lower in Europe. The reason why European consumers are not fully open to meat alternatives is a lack of familiarity with the product and the production process. Also, there is not enough sensory attractiveness, meaning the veggie meat doesn’t resemble the ABM enough to make the change.
The company ‘Beyond and Impossible’ created a new line of PBM which highly resembles ABM. However, these products are considered ‘highly-processed’ and that may alienate the consumers looking for food that is manufactured using natural methods.
Unlike its plant-based counterparts, CBM is not intended for vegetarians but meat-eaters. A clean meat consumer acceptance study found that the main worries consumers have when transiting to artificial food are unnaturalness, taste, safety, price, and texture. Potential users see clean meat as unnatural and therefore unappealing. Studies show that educating consumers about the environmental benefits had a positive effect on the acceptance rate. However, using terms such as cell-based, artificially grown and lab meat didn’t resonate well with the participants. Expressions such as ‘animal-free’ and ‘clean’ produced more positive reactions.
Taste, smell, touch, and sight
There are four main properties of meat. Taste, aroma, texture and look. PBM mimics ABM by color, structure, and fat in lean muscle. Raw products aim to be as similar to traditional meat as possible. They use thermostable fruit and extracts from vegetables like beet as well as engineered heme protein to create the color resembling raw meat. The color will turn brown once cooked. To create the fat resemblance, manufacturers place veggie fat like coconut oil or cocoa butter. Some plant proteins have a bitter and unappealing taste. Such as soy. Soy products have grassy flavors due to certain compounds. These compounds can be reduced through cooking. Soy leghemoglobin (LegH) is used to add flavor and meat-like quality to PBM products.
To increase the chances of being accepted by a mainstream consumer, clean meat products must be identical or even better in taste than traditional animal meat. The first lab-made burger, which was created in 2013, was said to be almost equivalent in taste to the real thing. However, some critics did mention it wasn’t as juicy as real beef. Since then, manufacturers have shifted their focus on creating fat tissue, as fat is what contributes to taste and texture. Researchers are also examining the effects of adding heme protein such as myoglobin to CBM. Myoglobin is supposed to add bloody flavor to the meat as well as improve its color.
Companies ‘Impossible Foods’ and ‘Beyond Meat’ have both conducted studies assessing environmental impacts associated with all the life-cycle stages of their products. Compared to chicken, pork, and beef coming from animal farms, PBM requires significantly less land. When it comes to greenhouse gas emissions veggie meat falls where traditional chicken and pork meat stands. On the other hand, the energy required to create plant-based meat exceeds the amount needed for animal meat products. With regards to water consumption, a separate life cycle assessment study claims that one ton of plant-based meat products consumes 3800 m3 of water.
Once the production of clean meat is optimized it is expected to produce significantly less waste in comparison to animal-based meat. The first life cycle assessment was published in 2011 and it estimated CBM would produce 78-86% less greenhouse gas emission, use 82–96% less water, reduce energy consumption by 7-45% and require 99% less land compared to ABM products. A separate life cycle assessment published in 2015, on the other hand, estimates fewer environmental benefits.
Impact on animals
Plant-based meat is free of animal meat. The manufacturing process doesn’t entail animal slaughter. However, some products have additives made of dairy and eggs, which makes them vegetarian but not vegan. From the animal welfare perspective egg and dairy production is a major worry. To produce milk cows are continuously impregnated and then separated from their calves which are taken away to make veal. Resulting in severe emotional distress for the cow. Vegan PBM also has disadvantageous effects on animals. To meet food requests, natural vegetation needs to be substituted by crops, which in turn destroys the natural habitat for some animals. A good example is palm oil farming in Malaysia which is responsible for the decrease of mammal inhabitants.
One of the core benefits of clean meat is the perseverance of animals. Cell supplies are extracted from animal donors and then expanded in vitro. No further input from the animal is needed. Younger animals tend to have faster cell growth and that is why they are usually considered cell donors. A veterinarian would extract less than one gram of tissue by a biopsy, while the animal is under anesthesia. Apart from cells, another animal-based aspect that goes into meat production is serum supplementation. The fetal bovine syndrome is also a common additive and is connected to growth factors of the mammalian cell culture.
How Covid impacted clean meat companies
Meatpacking industry workers were highly impacted by the coronavirus. Only in the United States of America, more than 20.000 workers got ill with Covid. The disease struck employees in Europe and other continents as well.
The reason why people working in meatpacking were so affected by the virus is not entirely clear. Supposedly it is because of the work conditions such as cold, physical closeness, and humidity. The meatpacking industry sits on many problems and turning to clean meat can solve plenty of them. Cell-based meat can be produced locally, without harming the environment, and while avoiding unsafe circumstances that caused meatpacking workers to contract the virus.
The cultured meat movement is going to accelerate due to the changes Covid brought. Consumers are much more interested in knowing what is in the food they eat and where that food came from. Many viruses such as the coronavirus are transferred from animals to people by consumption. Cell-based meat eliminates the risk of outbreaks of new diseases. There is no risk of contamination in the production process. Cells are checked for irregularities and are kept in a sterile environment preventing any virus to form.
How to Invest in the clean meat industry
The artificial meat industry is an up-and-coming industry expected to grow ten times in the next fifty years. Even though it’s still in the very beginning of development it has a huge potential.
Currently, there are no publicly traded companies producing lab-grown meat. However, many companies are largely investing in the development of cultured meat and will reap the benefits as soon as the artificial meat industry is commercialized.
Tyson Foods, a multinational corporation operating in the food industry, has been heavily investing in the clean meat business. In 2018 the company gained a minority share in Memphis Meat, a business specializing in producing clean meat. Apart from this venture, Tyson Foods has also invested in Beyond Meat, a producer of plant-based meat products.
Tyson’s investments are not to be brushed aside. They are empowering small clean meat businesses with funds to grow and develop. Buying Tyson shares means investing in the cell-based meat industry. The company stock is currently trading at 77$ on the New York Stock Trade and will become a leader in this up-and-coming billion-dollar industry in years to come.
Although there are no publicly traded lab-grown meat stocks, there are some listed companies that are providing clean meat businesses with the technology supporting their production process. It’s important to clarify that these companies don’t produce clean meat themselves. They are old-school industrial companies and are only interested in supporting the clean meat manufacturing process. Here are some of the mentioned stocks: Agilent Technologies A(NYSE), Amyris AMRS(NASDAQ), Archer Daniels Midland Venture Capital ADM(NYSE), Bell Food Group BELL(SWX), Neto Group NTO(TLV).
Meat-Tech 3D is an Israeli-based startup aspiring to produce the world’s first cell-based steak. The company aims to create a steak that would be the same in texture and taste as the traditional one. So far Meat-Tech 3D has raised thirty-four million dollars in funding and is looking to start with an IPO in the USA. It is listed for trading on the Tel-Aviv stock exchange with a ticker $MEAT and on the Nasdaq under the $MITC symbol. The company is using integrated 3D printing technology to aid the process of cultivated meat creation.
Company Website: https://meatech3d.com
Neto Group (Neto M.E Holdings Ltd.)
Established in 1940 and hiring up to 5 000 people, the Neto Group is one of Israel’s largest food conglomerates. Neto group is in the business of importing, distributing and marketing kosher food. The group consists of multiple brands.
The group consists of multiple brands. They are:
● Tibon Veal – An Israeli leading frozen meat
brand. Highest standards of meat production. They import and buy locally,
market and distribute fresh and processed, refrigerated, or frozen meat.
● Delidag – They import and buy locally,
market, and distribute fresh, refrigerated, or frozen fish.
● Williger – They produce canned tuna and
import canned products. They operate with fish products and dry grocery goods.
● The Three Bakers They produce, market,
import and distribute frozen bakery products.
● Magic – Magic produces ready-to-eat noodle
products that take very little time to prepare.
● El Gaucho – South American grill
restaurant. The food comes from Argentina and the restaurant offers a full
South American experience of grilled meat.
● Rich’s – Creating non-dairy products as a
substitute for milk, baking cream, and whipped cream.
Company website: https://www.neto.org.il/en
Upside Foods was formerly known as Memphis Meats. The company has collected an impressive 161 million dollars in series B fundraising from high-profile investors such as Tyson Foods, Richard Branson, and Bill Gates. So far, the company has managed to produce beef meatballs, fried chicken, and duck meat.
They claim to produce food from high-quality animal cells. They are turning the cells into the meat by providing them with nutrients. This process is called ‘Essential Nutrition’. Their goal is to keep the benefits of conventional meat while making products healthier, safer, and more nutritious. They strive to make meat better for the environment and healthier for people, by using significantly less land and water and creating a smaller amount of waste while substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Upside Foods was founded in 2015 by cardiologist Uma Valeti. The company’s goal is to feed 10 billion people by 2050 while preserving the environment. A Berkley, California-based company with up to 200 employees.
Stock Exchange Tickers: not currently listed
Company Website: https://www.upsidefoods.com/
Mosa Meat is a European food technology company responsible for creating the very first burger from lab-grown meat in 2013. It has raised ninety-six million dollars in funding and is hoping to introduce artificial meat to retail very soon. They are looking to create planet-friendly food while not compromising on taste. They claim to select the healthiest cows from which they extract 0.5-gram samples while under anesthesia. Afterward, the cow is free to return to the field.
One sample can create 80 000 burgers. Muscle cells merge normally. Fibers from one sample grow to 800 million strands of tissue. In 2013 the company’s Chief Scientific Officer Professor Mark Post presented the first clean meat burger to the world. The burger cost a staggering €250,000 to make and its production was funded by the co-founder of Google, Sergey Brin. Mosa Meat was founded in 2016. Headquarters is in Maastricht, Netherland with up to 200 employees.
Stock Exchange Tickers: not currently listed
Company Website: https://mosameat.com/
Future Meat Technologies
Future Meat Technologies were also successful at getting funds from high ticket investors such as Tyson Food. Scoring 14 million dollars in Series A funding. Future Meat Technologies develops meat from GMO-free animal cells that grow indefinitely without products or materials that contain an animal-derived ingredient. The company is dedicated to taking artificial meat to the supermarkets at the cost of only 10$ no later than 2022.
Future Meat Technologies claims their cells are not grown in chicken coops, meat processing factories, or barns but patented bioreactors. Products are indistinguishable from animal-based meat.
This distributive technology is sustainable and cost-effective. Moreover, the manufacturers can quickly adapt to the demand changes on the market. This is due to rapid growth cycles. Their cells show fast growth, doubling in mass every 24 hours. The producers can change lamb, chicken, and beef production within a few weeks’ notice thanks to the manufacturing process that lasts only two weeks. They manage to reduce the volume of feed media used in manufacturing by 20-folds due to their unique rejuvenating bioreactor design.
This Israeli-based company was founded by professor Yaakov Nahmias in 2018 and is employing up to 50 members of staff.
Company Website: http://www.future-meat.com
Meatable is a Dutch company aiming to find a way of producing real meat without harm to animals. Founded in 2018, it has since collected sixty-two million dollars. They claim their meat doesn’t contain any antibiotics. Their goal is to transform the meat industry and stop its negative impact on animal welfare and climate change. At the same time, they work on increasing the safety of food, without compromising the taste and culinary experience of real meat. With a headquarters in Delft, they are numbering up to 50 employees.
Company Website: http://www.meatable.com
Eat Just, Inc.
JUST is looking to build healthier, safer food systems. They are a privately owned company with a mission to turn public soon. They are on the lookout for funding to take their valuation over two billion dollars.
They took five years to research and find a plant that would be able to mimic an egg scramble once prepared. This plant is called a mung bean and is rich in protein. Mung beans are species in the legume family and they have been around for thousands of years but were never used in this particular way.
When you pour JUST Egg in a skillet, it sizzles like a traditional egg and it cooks into a breakfast scramble. JUST Egg doesn’t contain cholesterol and has more unsaturated fat than conventional eggs, with nearly the same amount of protein. This protein source is one the most sustainable ones as its ingredients need less land, carbon emissions, and water to make. They are on the lookout for tools that will make more sustainable and healthy food while keeping it tasty. To fulfill their mission, they cooperate with Michelin-starred chefs, top-notch product developers, and rural farmers.
Founded in 2011 in San Francisco, it now has up to 200 employees.
Company Website: https://www.ju.st/
Japanese startup whose ultimate goal is to develop a ‘SpaceSalt’ project that will allow people to grow their meat at home by themselves. They are also deserving of creating the first cultured foie gras in 2017. Integriculture is a cellular agriculture platform company. They are inventing sustainable protein and clean meat. Also, they offer their technology and production capacity to other companies interested to develop products from cells.
They believe cultured meat is the holy grail to sustainable protein.
Integriculture has developed a system that is enabling them to market lab-grown meat at lower prices. The system is called the ‘CulNet System’ and it is growing cells four to five orders of magnitude less expensive. This system is safer and cleaner in comparison to animal-based meat as well as some other cell-based meat products of other manufacturers. It doesn’t call for additional growth serums or other factors. The company has a headquarter in Tokyo and employs up to 50 people. It was founded by Yuki Hanyu in 2015.
Company Website: https://integriculture.jp/
Because Animals is a company producing clear meat for pets. They aim to create nutritious pet food without hurting any animals. The company was founded in 2016 by Shannon Falconer and Joshua Errett. They met while visiting the same cat rescue center in Toronto, Canada. The motive to develop clean pet meat lied in the unhealthy and over-processed food pets in the shelter were fed to. Now they are on the mission to make the healthiest and most sustainable food for dogs and cats on the planet! The company headquarters is in Chicago, USA and it employs up to 10 people.
Company Website: https://becauseanimals.com/
Even though they aren’t producing clean meat, they are investing millions in smaller companies that do. Tyson Foods is listed on the New York Stock Exchange with a ticker $TSN. Tyson paves the road for investing in artificial meat companies. They built their brand name by producing nutritious and tasty chicken for generations of families. Tyson Foods was able to recognize the global need for a change in food production and to present itself as an innovator in the food industry. Today, they offer full transparency into everything they do and have the fastest-growing portfolio of protein-based brands. Tyson Foods was founded back in 1935 in Springdale, Arkansas by John W. Tyson, an American businessman. Now it is the world’s largest processor and marketer of protein food products. The company employs more than 10 000 employees.
Company Website: http://tysonfoods.com
Beyond Meat is a Los Angeles-based producer of plant-based meat substitutes founded in 2009 by Ethan Brown. The company’s initial products were launched in the United States in 2012. Beyond Meat is a leading producer of plant-based meat products for the beef, pork, and poultry categories. The company sells products in over 80 countries.
Beyond Meat produces:
1. Chicken strips
The company’s first product was Chicken Fajita, which was launched in 2012. It imitated chicken and was sold frozen. They were made from various ingredients such as soy powder, carrot fiber, and gluten-free flour. They were then fed into a food extrusion machine, which produces a chicken-like texture by forcing the mixture through a special process. Although celebrities praised its taste, the journalists who tried it said it was not worth eating. It was discontinued in 2019.
2. Beyond Burger
In 2014, the company announced that it had developed a product that mimicked a beef burger. It got released in 2015. These burgers are made from pea protein isolates, rice protein, and mung bean protein. They are also made from various oil and starch sources. Beef products that bleed are produced by using red beet juice. Beyond Burger is an Ultra-processed food product. Food products are often classified as such due to the number of ingredients used in their making. One burger patty contains around 1,100 kilojoules of fat, protein, and carbohydrates.
3. Beyond Sausage
In 2017, the company introduced Beyond Sausage, a plant-based alternative to pork sausage. The product line included three varieties of the popular “sausage”.
4. Beyond Meatballs
Beyond Meatballs, which are made from plant-based proteins, were first introduced at Subway in 2019. Through the Beyond Meatball Marinara sub. In September 2020, Beyond Meat launched its Beyond Meatballs at select stores across the country.
Agronomics is focused on opportunities in the Life Science sector. Which revolves around the development of bio-based and sustainable solutions for the environment. The company focuses on investing in the areas of cellular agriculture, cellular aquaculture, and alternative protein production. Their center of attention is on early-stage investments in the Life Sciences sector. The company aims to bring these opportunities to the public markets.
VanEck is an American investment firm. The company was founded in 1955 and currently employs up to 200 employees. VanEck is privately held.
In December 2021, the firm announced that it would be launching a “Future of Food” ETF. The goal of the product is to provide exposure to companies involved in the development of agri-food innovation and technology.
The symbol for the ETF will be YUMY. Ammar James and Shawn Reynolds will manage the VanEck YUMY.
Reynolds said that climate change and the increasing global population are also driving the need for sustainable agricultural processes and technologies. He continued by explaining that the global agri-food market is in its early stages of transformation, and there are plenty of opportunities to grow in this space. However, the market is still nascent, and many companies are just starting to explore the possibility of entering the public markets.
James said that innovation is needed to meet the growing demands of the food industry, but they also have to consider the environmental impacts of their products.
Company website: https://www.vaneck.com/
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This article was last updated on December 6th, 2021.