United Kingdom based startup Higher Steaks claimed in an announcement today they have successfully created the world’s first lab-grown prototypes for bacon and pork belly.
(Editor update: Mission Barns CEO Eitan Fischer reached out to The Spoon to claim they had created a cultivated bacon prototype this past May, but did not announce it widely at the time).
The production of the first cultivated bacon is big news for those excited for alternatives to industrially produced meat. While 2020 has been a big year for alt-pork, with Impossible launching their plant-based pork at CES and Omnipork debuting their plant-based pork shoulder, this news from Higher Steaks marks the first time bacon or pork belly have been developed from actual animal cells.
The interest in alt-pork shouldn’t be surprising since meat from pigs is the most consumed type of meat in the world. However, countries like China have seen huge viral threats to their pig population, with around half being wiped out in 2019 due to African Swine Fever.
According to company CEO Benjamina Bollag, the protoypes took approximately one month to create, developed from a type of a highly adaptable type of stem cell called induced pluripotent stem cells.
“In nature, you have adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells,” Bollag told The Spoon in an interview. “And this is a way of taking any cell in the body and bringing it back to the embryonic state. Which means that you can expand those cells a lot more and you can make any type of tissue.”
According to Bollag, the company used stem cells to create muscle tissue, and used a combination of plant protein and fats to round out the prototype. In the future, Bollag says the company intends to use stem cells to create the other parts of the bacon.
For Higher Steaks, creating the world’s first lab-grown bacon prototype is a big accomplishment. Dutch startup Meatable raised $10 million late last year as part of their effort to create a lab-grown pork, while New Age Meats debuted a lab-grown pork sausage prototype in 2018.
If you’re excited to try out cultivated bacon, you may have to wait a few years. According to Bollag, lab-grown bacon and pork belly will take a while to get to market.
“So I think in the next two to three years, you’ll start seeing it in the upper end, maybe in select restaurants, small quantities” said Bollag. “I think for it to be mass market, really price comparison and supermarket, you’re looking more around five years.”
You can see my full interview with Bollag talking about the development of their bacon and pork belly prototypes below.