Israeli startup Aleph Farms has unveiled what it calls “the first cell-grown minute steak” — that is, the first steak made from cow cells, but grown outside a cow in a bioreactor.
Up until now, companies such as Finless Foods, JUST, and Mosa Meats have made cultured tuna, chicken nuggets, and hamburgers, respectively. But cell-based steak, with its complex, sliceable texture, has remained elusive.
I spoke with Aleph Farms CEO Didier Toubia back in May about their plans to make the first cultured steak:
“Instead of starting with a simpler ground “meat” product and later developing 3D tissue-growing technology, [Aleph Farms] is hoping to skip ahead and bring a fully developed product — one with the same texture, structure, and taste as beef — to market.
To do that, their scientists are working on growing four types of cells: muscle, fat, blood vessels, and connective tissue… Once they cultivate the various types of cells, they place them on scaffolds which act as a framework for the cells to cling onto. That way, the four types of cells can grow together into a finished product with the shape of steak — not just blobs of separate cell types in petri dishes that have to be manually combined.”
Wall Street Journal senior correspondent Jason Bellini got to taste this new cut of cell-based meat on camera. In the video, Amir Ilan, a chef at the restaurant Paris Texas in Israel, seared the thin slices of pre-cooked steak about the size of a credit card. (Interestingly, the camera crew was not allowed to film raw slices of the steak.) He served the meat with a truffle glaze and mushrooms. The consensus? “It’s pretty good, I have to say,” said Bellini between chews. “It’s pretty close to a regular steak… it passes.”
For now, the size and texture of Aleph Farms’ steaks are limited. They can’t grow them bigger than a few inches and no thicker than a few centimeters. Though companies are working to create bigger and better-textured cuts of cultured meat through 3D printing or using plants as scaffolds, texture remains one of the biggest challenges in making cell-based meat taste like the real thing.
Aleph Farms’ news comes just a day after JUST, a San Francisco startup most known for their plant-based foods, announced that it has partnered with Japanese producer Toriyama to create the first cell-based Wagyu. Though they’re planning to make a burger instead of a steak, the one-two punch speaks to how quickly the field of cultured meat is accelerating — though it’ll be a while yet (at least a year) before JUST’s product is to market.
If you want to try Aleph Farms’ steaks, you’ll have to wait even longer. While the company didn’t give an exact timeline, the WSJ video stated that their cultured steak is still at least two years away. But the implications of this first taste test are still significant. As I wrote back in May, “If they can nail the texture of a steak, Aleph Farms has a real shot at converting even the most hardcore of carnivores.” It seems that the startup has taken one big step closer to that goal.