Asia’s growing appetite for meat drives expansion of lab-grown beef

lab-grown meat
Lab-grown cultured meat. Image by Firn | Bigstockphoto

The market for lab-grown meats is growing worldwide as people look to cut costs and environmental impacts, with Asia leading the way.

Earlier this week, Israeli startup Aleph Farms announced that will attempt to meet growing demand in the region, after sealing deals with major Asian food company Thai Union and food and lifestyle brand CJ CheilJedang.

Under these partnerships, Thai Union and CJ CheilJedang will support the scale-up, go-to-market activities, and distribution of cultivated beef in existing marketing channels throughout Asia-Pacific.

Aleph Farms also struck a similar deal with Mitsubishi in January, with the latter providing expertise in biotechnology processes, branded food manufacturing, and local distribution channels in Japan.

In a recent Series B funding round, Aleph Farms raised $105 million with the help of L Catterton, the largest global consumer-focused private equity firm, and DisruptAD, ADQ’s venture platform.

Since 2017, Aleph Farms has been aiming to mass-produce steaks that are equal in taste and appearance to conventionally grown meat, but with much less land use, water use, and greenhouse gas emissions.

Currently, the startup grows its meats using pluripotent stem cells harvested from cows’ muscle tissue. These cells can then grow into any type of cell or tissue in the body.

As with most lab-grown meat companies, the goal is not only to replace traditional meats but also to target the huge number of people who consume poultry and seafood, which is predicted to reach $7.3 trillion by 2025.

In Asia, rising incomes and a booming population, particularly in the Southeast, have led to enormous interest and curiosity around lab-grown meats.

According to a survey by Thai Union and Aleph Farms, 74% of Singaporeans and 97% of Thais are interested in trying lab-grown meat. In fact, Singapore became a global pioneer when it approved cultured meat in December and offered it in a commercial restaurant after that.

However, lab-grown meat has yet to gain the approval of some Southeast Asian populations, such as the Philippines and Indonesia. Data from 2018 to 2019 shows that 65% of Filipinos and 62% of Indonesians would not eat lab-grown meat, mostly over safety concerns.

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