Israeli bioprinting startup MeaTech 3D this week became the latest cultivated meat company to announce a pilot production facility, which the company intends to have operational in 2022. The plant’s location is yet to be announced. MeaTech said they will use the facility to increase the production of cultured chicken fat from Peace of Meat, a Belgian company MeaTech acquired in December of 2020.
MeaTech says cultured fat can “significantly enhance” the texture, flavor, and mouthfeel of plant-based meat alternatives, giving them an altogether “meatier” taste than is available with current plant-based meat analogues. MeaTech said in this week’s announcement that it plans to license its cultivated fat tech — including cell lines and bioprocesses — to other companies wishing to improve their plant-based products.
However, cultivated fat is only one part of MeaTech’s overall plan. In tandem, the company will continue to develop a process for whole cuts of cultivated meat — namely steak and chicken breast — using 3D bioprinting tech.
Developing full cuts of cultivated meat is far more difficult than making minced products for burgers or chicken bites. With full cuts of meat, the various cells, including those for muscle, fat, blood vessels, and connective tissue, have to grow together, on scaffolding, to achieve the desired cut of meat. This is a significantly more intricate process than simply growing the different cells then manually combining them at the end, as can be done for a patty or nugget.
Aleph Farms, also based in Israel, is the other notable company attempting to produce whole cuts of cultivated meat. Earlier this year, the company said they had developed a 3D bioprinted Ribeye steak from cultivated protein.
So far, MeaTech has printed a carpaccio-like layer of meat. A full steak or chicken breast is in all likelihood years away. While the forthcoming pilot production facility will first be used to scale up production of Peace of Meat’s cultured fat, it will eventually incorporate MeaTech’s bioprinting tech to produce the aforementioned whole cuts of meat.