Cell-based meat may be some time away from the grocery aisle, but that hasn’t stopped companies all over the world from trying to raise animal protein without the actual animal. Think cell-based beef, pork, and seafood, and, now, kangaroo and alpaca.
The latter two on that list come courtesy of a Sydney, Austraila-based company called Vow, which today announced a recent “culinary demonstration” of its “multi-species meat platform.” Working with Australian chefs Neil Perry Corey Costelloe, Vow in August held a recent event showing off six of its cell-based meat types: goat, pork kangaroo, rabbit, lamb, and alpaca. All dishes came from Vow’s cell library (more on that below).
On its website, Vow says it takes just six weeks to get from animal cell to plated product. The company first takes and nourishes the animal cells, which grow in cultivators and form fat, tissue, and muscle just as they would if growing inside the animal.
There are a couple things that set Vow apart from other companies working in the cell-based meat space. First is the sheer selection of meat Vow aims to eventually offer the buying public. Kangaroo and alpaca are unconventional enough when it comes to cultured meat, but Vow has also name-dropped zebra, yak, and other animals in the past.
This isn’t just a gimmick to grow weird meat for the “wow” factor. Speaking recently to Food Navigator, Vow’s co-founder and Chief Commercial Officer Tim Noakesmith pointed to the “uncanny valley” problem meat alternatives can encounter: that giving people a product they are used to but with a slight variation (e.g., texture, aftertaste) will garner a negative reaction.
“If we offer them something new, a new meat via a new format and give them a completely different experience, there won’t be this prior comparison [or the instinct to reject the new experience],” he told Food Navigator.
True to that idea, Vow keeps a “cell library” of different cells its scoured from all corners of the earth, which is the other factor setting it apart from others in the cultured meat space. The company says there are “hundreds upon hundreds of possible combinations” for future meat.
Vow co-founder and CEO George Peppou said in today’s press release that the recent taste testing event represented a milestone that “demonstrates we can grow the cells of any animal, not just those we can farm.”
Thus far, Integriculture’s cell-based foie gras and BlueNalu’s crustaceans are about as exotic as it’s gotten for cultured meat. So Vow’s recent unveiling of its new dishes is definitely a milestone for the cell-baed meat sector, which has raised around $290 million so far in 2020.
Vow says it is currently hiring chefs, food scientists, and sensory experts to help develop new products. For now, the company is focused on markets in the Asia-Pacific region.