Steakholder Foods

Steakholder Meets: Cultivated meat 101

Steakholder Meets: Cultivated meat 101

Mor (host):

Okay, so welcome, everyone, to Steakholder meets our biweekly Twitter space show that’s brought to you by Steakholder Foods. My name is Mor Glotter-Nov, and I will be hosting Steakholder meets. And I’m really excited because today is our first Twitter space ever. And today’s episode, I have our CEO, Arik Kaufman with me and our CTO, Dan Kozlovski. And we’re all going to discuss this topic that’s really been making waves in the food industry. So that’s cultivated meat. We’ll be diving into the basics of cultivated meat that’s also known as lab-grown or a lot of other names, and we’ll be exploring the potential of this world to revolutionize the way that we produce and consume meat. So if you’re curious about this cutting-edge technology this is going to be the space for you. If you’re joining us live, you can drop your questions as comments on our Q&A tweet, and we’ll leave sometime in the end for Arik and Dan to answer any questions that you might have about cultivated meat and Steakholder Foods and how we’re leading the charge in this exciting new field.

Arik, Dan – welcome! I’m excited to have you both here. Let’s talk about cultivated meat. Just first thing first. Let’s do quick introductions. Arik, do you want to go first? Do you want to tell me a few words about yourself, how you got into food tech in general and Steakholder Food specifically?

Arik:

Yes. So, hi, Mor, and Dan, and thank you, everyone, for joining us. It’s exciting for us as the Twitter Spaces platform is very relevant to our investors, mainly in the US. And I think that it’s a great start to a way to communicate with our investors. So, my name is Arik Kaufman. I’m one of the co-founders and the CEO of Steakholder Food. 42, live in Israel, have two beautiful daughters, and I started this journey in Steakholder Foods at a time when it was called it MeaTech in order to make a significant change. We wanted to establish a company that is in a sector that has the potential for real impact on the world. So, we focused on the meat industry. We saw that in the meat industry, there’s a great opportunity, and that’s how we’ve started from scratch and here we are today. So that’s me, and I’ll pass it on to Dan.

Dan:

 Hi, Mor, and hello to everyone who joined us for this session. I’m a bit excited because it’s our first session on Twitter Space, and I’ll start by presenting myself. I’m Dan, and I’m the CTO of Steakholder Foods. I’ve joined the company more than three years ago, and my role is to develop the technology and support the company’s vision. Currently, I’m doing so by leading a wonderful development team that is divided into two main departments. The bigger one is the biology department which is responsible for developing the cells. We also have an engineering department that is responsible for developing very cool technology for printing cells and other engineering solutions for cultivated meat production. My background includes developing different kinds of disruptive technology from hardware and software. In the past ten years or so, I’ve been working on 3D printing at different companies like HP Indigo and Nano dimension. I was very fortunate to get to know the founder Arik and joined Steakholder since its foundation. This is a very cool company that developed sustainable meat and is helping the planet while having unique technological challenges – something that always attracts me. And so, I’ve joined Steakholder.

Mor:

Perfect. So welcome both of you. And now that people know a little bit about each of you, let’s start and talk about cultivated meat. My first question might sound a little bit silly, but I want to make sure everyone is on the same page here – what is cultivated meat? Is it the same thing as lab-grown? Is it exactly the same as cultured? What is it?

Arik:

There are many different names for the same product. Cultivated meat, lab-grown meat, cell-based, clean meat. They all refer at the end to the same idea – types of meat that are grown from animal cells in a controlled and sterile laboratory environment. And they’re designed to replicate the process that occurs naturally in an animal. We are talking about a revolution that if I can refer to past revolutions, it’s maybe like maybe as significant as the automobile and engine revolution when humanity moved from hours and carriages to cars and machines.

The meat revolution will change everything. It will allow us to eat real meat without the negative effects.

Mor:

Thank you. Now that everyone is on the same page and understands a little bit about what cultivated meat means, let’s dig deeper. I get asked this question a lot – how is it different from what we can see in stores today?

Dan:

I will take this. Currently, all the products we see in the store and in restaurants, by companies like Impossible, Redefine Meat and Beyond Meat, that have great products, but these products are fully plant-based. It means that all the ingredients are from plants. The product that we are developing is very different because it is cell-based, it has nutritional values and protein inherently unlike the plant-based versions. So, cultivated meat is like the animal product we are familiar with. It’s very important to mention that the plant-based products, which are doing a great job, that you can find in the stores and in the markets have great texture. But to imitate the taste, you need to add some flavors that are not that healthy. Our products don’t need those ingredients because it’s the same as the animal.

Mor:

Okay, thank you. That makes total sense. So basically, we do the cells, and currently, in the market, there are only plant-based products, and there is a very big difference in a lot of different aspects between these solutions.

Can one of you please give us a brief overview of how cultivated meat is produced? I know some companies do it differently, but just generally how it’s made.

Arik:

So I’ll take this question. I think that it first starts similarly between all the companies – you need to create a cell line. So, first of all, you source a cell line in an ethical manner. That’s stage one. Then you perfect the cell line. You need to perfect the cell line that fits the most for scale. That’s stage number two. Then you proliferate, meaning you grow the cells. The cell line usually is an immortal cell line, meaning that it will continue and duplicate itself forever. So, you don’t need to collect each time a new cell line from the animals. After you grow the cells, you differentiate them. We differentiate the cells into different types of cells – into fat, into muscle. And then our magic happens. We load the cells into our bio-ink and we print the different cells into a matrix, which we decide how it will be shaped. So our printers are loaded with the cells bio-ink and are printed into a matrix keeping the cell viable after they are printed!

Mor:

Okay, thanks. And then what are alt products? And can you explain what hybrid products are as well?

Arik:

Yes. So currently, as Dan said, there are only plant-based products. Plant-based products, meaning products that use alternative proteins, are made of plant-based ingredients. The first very exciting products that will enter the market are hybrid products, meaning that they contain plant-based ingredients, but they are integrated with a certain percentage of cultivated ingredients. Whether it will be 5%, 10%, or 50%, no one really knows what’s the perfect percentage. But these cultivated ingredients which are integrated into plant-based products, change everything. They change the taste, they change the characteristics of the plant-based products as we can extract many of the unhealthy addetives that are put into the plant-based products to help mimic real meat. So, these are hybrid products, meaning products that don’t contain 100% plant, they don’t contain 100% cultured. They are a mix of both.

Mor:

Okay. Now tell me the truth – how does the taste and texture of cultivated meat compare to traditional meat?

Arik:

Let’s take a step back. For centuries, people have been used to eating meat. It’s a part of our tradition and celebrations. It’s very important for people worldwide to eat meat. So, our approach is that the only way to convince people to stop eating meat is by converting them to eat meat, to eat cultured meat. Our cultured products, in the end, mimic real meat. We can create similar muscle and fat issues that can create exactly the same texture and taste of the meat that we are used to eating today!

Mor:

That’s incredible. It’s exciting to see these products come onto the market and have people actually, just like you said, replace meat with meat. That totally makes sense. And it’s exciting to see this revolution come together. I know there are a few other benefits.

Dan:

Can add a bit more? We test our product constantly and we see how we get better and better. We’ve been working hard on achieving the biological aspect, as Arik mentioned, of differentiating the cells and getting the muscle and the fat to mimic the meat we are eating. Our cultivated meat has the same nutritional values, and the texture and everything are amazing. And I’m sure that anyone who eats our product, will be very surprised that it is so similar and wouldn’t notice that this is something that no animal was slaughtered during this process.

Mor:

Yeah, it’s amazing. I know the benefits don’t really stop just at having something that mimics real meat. There are also environmental benefits. Can you share what are the benefits there in terms of the environment of cultivated meat in comparison to traditional meat production?

Arik:

Sure. So if we look at the world population, the world population is growing dramatically. We see a whole midclass arising in China, India, in additional countries, in this middle class want to be exposed to meat. They want to eat meat, and the way that meat is produced today, the way that the meat is harvested today cannot cope with these rising demands. So the way that meat is produced today extracts emissions into the air, which creates a climate crisis. The cattle drink vast amounts of water, use vast amounts of land, and need to be fed.  The cultured meat industry does not use animals as the animal is used today. As I said before, we’re only collecting the cells, and then once we have perfected the cell line, which we have, then we don’t need to recollect the cells. We don’t need vast fields of land for the cows to walk the field. We don’t need vast amounts of water. Just to give you a perspective, it’s 78% less freshwater that we use, 93% less air pollution due to the emissions that are not extracted into the air, and 86% less land use. We have our bioreactors, we have our printers, and the whole process is transparent, it’s clean and it’s ethical. And it’s done in an ethical way without any animals harmed in the process.

Mor:

Sounds like a dream come true. I heard today. I don’t remember who said that to me, but it was: have your steak and eat it too. So it sounds just like that. Okay, so I’m sure there are some challenges and limitations in producing cultivated meat on a large scale. Can you share some of that with us here?

Dan:

Yes, we’ve been working quite hard on those challenges, and we were advancing quite well. But to understand those challenges, we need to explain how cells grow. Cells divide, cells proliferate and one cell becomes two and four, and very, very fast you have a lot of cells because it’s an exponential process. Currently, to have those cells, you need the right environment to do so. But cells need food in order to grow. This food is called media. If I simplify the process a bit and the media of the cells is quite expensive, the main portion of the media, which is the main cost component, is growth factors. Inside the media, we have exactly the pathway and how to reduce the gross media. And this media cost is decreasing dramatically. In 2013, approximately ten years ago, Mark Post, a very famous professor that has been one of the founders of the industry, grew the first cultivated burger. Legend says that the cost was around $400K. And we know how to do it today for a fraction of that price. The main reason for this cost is because of the media and the growth factors inside the media. So it’s a challenge to reduce the cost, but we know exactly how to do it and we know how to make it affordable real soon. Another challenge is regulation. As we mentioned, you can eat only plant-based products in the world. And this is because no country has regulated and approved eating cultivated meat, except Singapore. Singapore is allowed to eat cultured meat and it’s the first country in the world and the only one at the moment to approve it. In the USA we see a lot of advancement in the regulation and about a month ago Upside Foods got first no questions from the FDA about the safety of the food, so we understand that the regulator is motivated to approve the product and is a partner of developing those products, so we have a huge challenge, but it’s progressing. So, the challenges are the media and the regulation, those are two main factors that we know precisely how to tackle and we’re working hard on them.

Mor:

It makes sense that there are challenges and it’s good to know that you’re tackling both the cost with the media and the regulation. What is Steakholder Foods’ approach to the production of cultivated meat? What sets Steakholder Foods apart from other companies in the field? Or, in other words, what’s our special sauce?

Arik:

When we established Steakholder, we tried to aim as high as possible. We’ve aimed to 3D print cultivated steak, structured meat, and that was our goal. And because we’ve set our goal so high, the bar is so high, we understood we need very advanced 3D printing meat capabilities to achieve this goal. And from day one, we’ve started to establish our own printers which are fully developed by us. If I have to say, all the processes that we are developing in-house are with a mindset of scale. So we don’t develop any process in-house that is not scalable. Today we already have a version of our printer which already has industrial potential and industrial-scale capabilities. It can potentially print tons per day. And I believe that the fact that we are tackling structured meat and the opposite of hybrid products, as we said, we will sell hybrid products at first, but we have a huge advantage with structured meat. By printing the structured meat through our own printers, which are 3D printers that can print at a very high pace, very accurately, it’s an industrial scale, they can replace the butcher house. I believe that these two factors, the fact that we are developing structured meat and the fact that we have our own 3D printers which are second to none, I think that’s the fact that differentiate us from the crowd.

Mor:

Okay, and how do you see the future of cultivated meat and its role in the food industry in general?

Arik:

I think it’s a game-changer. In the end, we are empowering people with choices that protect the future of all. There’s no turning back. If I can tell a story we had yesterday, an elementary class that came for a tour at our office. We occasionally have classes of students that come to visit us. While a lot of questions are raised from, I think, maybe older generations about the safety of this process, how will it replace cattle the way that we are used to it today… but as lower the ages of the visitors, the higher the acceptance of these people. So, if you ask a child that comes to us and he will look at a printer and you will ask him, will you eat it? Do you think that it’s natural to eat a steak that is printed through a printer without harming the planet, without antibiotics, in a very transparent way. They will say yes. The majority of the children will say yes. And that’s why I believe that we don’t have another choice. We have game-changer technology here. Not only are we one of the advanced companies in this sector, but we are also doing a thing that will change the way that we live in the future. So I believe that 20 years from now we will look back and we’ll say, okay, how was it? How did it happen before?

Mor:

Yeah, I agree I must say. If consumers or people here in the space want to learn more about cultivated meat support companies that are working on it, where can they find information?

Dan:

There is a lot of information online, as everybody knows, and our industry is moving very fast and the pace is huge. A lot of companies in the field publish content and news about the industry. And we also try to share the latest news on our social channels and also on our website. We also created a Twitter list of most of the food tech companies in the world, so everyone here can follow and make sure they get updated on the most exciting news, and they are all very exciting news, for example, the no-questions approval given by the FDA to Upside Foods, which is revealing that we soon will be allowed to eat this kind of product in the USA also and not only in Singapore.

Mor:

Yeah, amazing. Our team created a really cool list here on Twitter with the biggest thought leaders in the industry that you can just click and follow. So hopefully that would be interesting for you. Are there any upcoming developments and products from Steakholder Foods that you want to share with us here?

Arik:

Yes, so I’ll be careful because as I said before, actually, I don’t know if I said that now we are the only publicly traded company in the cultivated meat industry. We are traded in the Nasdaq, our ticker is STKH, so we are very careful with the things that we are disclosing. We cannot disclose here something that was not disclosed to the public, but we have disclosed that one of our primary goals is to commercialize our printing capabilities. So, I foresee updates that have to do with the printer, either with upgrades to the printer, which will happen this year, hopefully to the industrial scale printer. One of our main targets is to see some kind of commercialization of this printer because as I said, we are unique with the printing capabilities in this ecosystem of the cultured meat industry, and talking about collaborations, I personally believe that we cannot solve everything alone. Only by joining forces, can we really tackle the huge challenges, as we said before, the building blocks of this industry that has to do with cost and media. The only way to solve it is by joining forces and by seeing the giants of the industry joining this. So, I foresee hopefully also collaboration as the collaboration that we have already with the Singaporean company by printing cultured fish. Hopefully, we’ll see additional potential collaborations with additional companies.

Mor:

Thanks. And if anyone here in the space wants to stay tuned, for more updates about us you should follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn or our newsletter.

I’m done with my part of the questions here in this space. Before I go into Q&A I want to thank you both for answering and I hope it was interesting for everyone. If people here are listening live then feel free to share any questions. We will go through the questions that we’re getting and try to get you answered. I already have a few questions here for you Arik and Dan. Let me go ahead and share those with you. So the first question that we’ve got is: is the nutritional profile the same for the meat that we’re producing?

Dan:

It is something we are examining a lot and, we are doing some amino acid profiling and other methods of making sure our nutritional values are similar to the products we are used to eating. We are getting there but I must say that we can even get a better result, which is also interesting, and new technology always brings advantages, and we can use our technology to get even better nutritional values, by removing downsides like antibiotic immunity, and a lot of other health problems that can be solved only by consuming the product we develop.

Mor:

Okay, perfect. And another question that I received here is: when will you manage to manufacture on a large scale?

Arik:

That’s a great question because the plans of yesterday are not the plans of today and they maybe won’t be the plans of tomorrow. In the end, we are acting in an ecosystem that is challenging. As I said, we are a publicly traded company that brings to the table solutions for challenges that are disconnected from the progress of the company. So the company can progress at a very high pace and be one of the leading companies in the world in this ecosystem. But the challenges worldwide, not only for us, as a public company, limit certain possibilities. This is something we understood in the past months, which is that because we are among the leading companies in the world, there are more sophisticated ways to reach scale. Scale can be reached through establishing your own facility which involves huge CAPEX, meaning vast amounts of funds that needs to be invested in such a facility. The timeline for this can be a few years to establish this facility because it’s novel. No one has a facility like this. Other intelligent and sophisticated ways that have to do with that are linked to much lower CAPEX is maybe producing through third parties. So that I think is a very exciting route that we are exploring right now and we’ve published it already that we intend to engage with such a player sometime this year. Another way to commercialize this is through our printing capabilities. So if one has seen our deck that is published on our website, all our printing capabilities are separated to a private fully owned company that allows us more flexibility in engaging with third parties in order to commercialize everything that has to do with our printing capabilities. So one of our main targets, as I said before, is commercializing the printing capabilities, which timeline-wise is much faster. And everything that has to do with regulation that has due to the printer is also at a lower grade. So the pace here may be higher.

Mor:

Okay, thanks. I’m going to take two more questions and then we’re going to wrap it up. Another question is: do you think that cultured meat will be affordable for lower-income families in the future?

Arik:

Our whole approach, as I see it, as we see it as a community, is that meat will be affordable to all. Meat is not supposed to be a product that only the rich will buy. And as time will go by and the scale will go up and the prices will go down, then the meat will be accessible to all. The way we produce meat in a cultured way can be produced in Ukraine, it can be produced in the desert and it can be produced in a 200-story high building. So no question asked that it will be affordable as time will go by. That’s one of our main goals. The other is that it needs to be sustainable. It needs to be affordable to all. I don’t know if I mentioned it, but we are part of the UN initiative that has to do also with food security and this whole industry because we don’t need to harvest the animals year after year. Because the cells are immortal. Because once we know how to produce one steak, we can produce a million steaks. So for sure, our meat will be something that will be accessible to all of the population.

Mor:

That is amazing to hear. Thank you. Last question. Can you tell us more about growth media?

Arik:

I will start. I think Dan will like to give the details, the technical details. If I’m trying to reflect on the way that the cow is born today until it’s slaughtered, that it’s born, then it has to walk the field, it has to eat, and then after two years, once it reaches a certain weight, it’s slaughtered. So think about the process that the cell overgoes since we collect them, it’s the same. At the end, the cells need to eat and they need to exercise, and that’s part of our core technology that protects precisely this. The way that we exercise the cell and the way that we feed the cells. The cells are fed through media. Dan, you can jump in and give all the technical details?

Dan:

As I mentioned, the cells need media as this is their food to proliferate and grow. We get a lot of cells by proliferating them with growth factors in the media. The growth factors is the main portion of the price of the media and that reflects the price of our product. We are after proof of concept and I have tested our product, but we are currently working on reducing the price that will be affordable to all of us and by scaling our production capabilities, we’ll be able to reduce the price. Those growth factors are the main part of the cost in the media, we have the composition of the media and we know exactly which growth factor is responsible for the cost and we know exactly how to reduce the cost.

Mor:

Amazing. And it sounds so complex. I’m really happy that your team is owning the space, not mine. You’re all doing an amazing job.

Dan:

Yes, but I have the best team to do so.

Arik:

Just to say that Dan is taking from Belgium. He isn’t in Israel currently and I’m in Israel.

Mor:

Yeah, global team here. Okay, thank you Arik and Dan. Everyone here. I hope this was interesting to you. We’re going to follow up every two weeks with a different space and a different topic. And I really hope this will be kind of an ongoing show that you’re all going to tune in and love. We’re happy to get feedback, let us know what you think. And I hope you all have an amazing day. Make sure to follow us and stay tuned for anything that’s happening and yeah, thank you so much, everyone. Have a nice day.

Dan:

Thank you. Mor, thank you for hosting this session. It was very interesting for me also

Arik:

I want to summarize again, thank you all for joining us. And I believe that this year, 2022, was a very challenging year for all. But I think and believe that we have an exciting year upcoming 2023 for this whole industry in general and Steakholder Foods, particularly. Thank you for thank you. Bye, everyone. Bye.