Lab-grown or cultured meat is a sexy topic that fulfills the dream of healthy eating while saving the planet’s precious resources. Most of the headlines focus on the companies in the four corners of the world waiting for regulators to wave the checkered flag. The more interesting story—at least for those who enjoy looking under the hood—is in the processes, supply chain, and partnerships vital to this promising industry.
To understand the drill-down of what it takes to go from harvesting animal cells to creating consumer-facing products, it’s valuable to speak with visionaries such as Ido Savir, CEO of Israel’s SuperMeat. In addition to his knowledge of cultivated meat, Savir’s background in IT provides him with a panoramic view of the infrastructure needed to build a successful B2B company.
While it might not qualify as an awe-inspiring announcement, SuperMeat recently received a grant from the Israeli Innovation Authority to establish an open-source high-throughput screening system for optimizing cultivated meat feed ingredients. As an analogy, think of it as a system that ensures cows or chickens receive only the best quality feed to produce larger quantities of high-grade meat or chicken. But there is a significant difference.
Savir explains that animals are inefficient producers of their products. “It’s just done more efficiently (in cultivated meat),” the SuperMeat CEO told The Spoon in a recent interview. “In traditional meat production, 70% to 80% of the cost comes from the feed, and animals are just not very efficient conversion machines.” To put it into perspective, the cost of animal component-free (ACF) feed can make or break those vying to play in this space.
Rather than compete with consumer-facing brands such as Future Meat, Eat Just, and Mosa Meat (to name a few), SuperMeat is taking a B2B approach. Working with established meat and poultry providers to build production facilities where companies with existing supply chains can quickly enter the future of the alt-meat market. SuperMeat has announced deals with Germany’s PHW Group and Migros in Switzerland. The Israeli firm is in discussion with potential U.S. partners to reach the stateside market by the end of 2023.
The decision to build a platform for cultivated meat rather than build its own consumer brand directly results from Savir’s tech background, and it is also why the new feed screening system is in the open-source approach. “From my background, and I really believe in open source, and I really believe in sort of a platform approach that can help bring not just one company but the industry forward,” Savir stated.
Also, speaking to his tech background, it’s clear Savir has learned the relationship between capital expenditures and profit. It’s not about cost; it’s about having the right model.
“The way I look at this, and it doesn’t matter how much the infrastructure costs,” he said. “What matters is how efficient and the return you can get from that money. Right. And if you can get that return in a reasonable time, it makes sense, no matter what the cost is. We have our cost of goods models that demonstrate that that makes sense.”
A trip to SuperMeat’s facility in Israel will yield more than a view of lab equipment and many steel fermentation tanks. The facility includes a small restaurant-like space called “The Chicken,” where potential business partners, consumers, and others can taste the lab-grown animal protein. Savir says it’s more than just a pretty place to show off.
“We’re trying to do things a bit differently,” Savir said. “We thought it was important for us and our potential clients, which are food companies, to have that full transparency and traceability.”
See video of the makeshift eatery below: