US approval of cultivated meat sets stage for Australasian innovation push

In a major milestone for the cultivated meat industry, the US Department of Agriculture has granted approval for the sale of cultivated meat, making the US the second country in the world – after Singapore – to approve the new animal-free technology. 

The historic move is likely to trickle down to impact other countries, including Australia and New Zealand, where four companies currently work in the cultivated meat ecosystem. 

Cultured meat uses cells harvested from living tissue that can replicate themselves and grow outside the body of an animal source (in vitro) using a specialised medium containing essential nutrients and growth factors similar to what is found inside an animal’s body. The process mimics what happens when an animal grows; cultured meat is “grown” inside fermentors to an “almost limitless” degree. 

Dr Simon Eassom, executive director of alternative proteins thinks tank Food Frontier, said the US approval would boost the morale of the Australian cellular agriculture sector and other food innovators working to introduce greater protein diversity. 

“With our highly active food systems innovation and technical initiatives, Australia has the potential to lead the way on the global stage,” explained Eassom. 

“If approval is granted in Australia, we will be at the forefront of the international race to develop alternative and lucrative solutions for the ever-growing protein demands worldwide.”

He added that cultivated meat offers consumers additional choices and would help ensure food security as the industry moves towards a more sustainable future food system.

As of today, the four companies in Australia and New Zealand are working on cultured meat and cell-based food: Vow, Heuros, Magic Valley and All G Foods.

  • Vow is developing cultivated quail, and the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is reviewing allowing its products to go on sale. 
  • All G Foods is developing cultivated milk and cheese using precision fermentation. 
  • Heuros uses genetically modified-free growth factors to produce cultured meat. The company said it is building its team to expand research and development.
  • Magic Valley is in discussions with FSANZ for approval of the sale of its cultivated meat from lamb. 

According to consultancy firm McKinsey and Company, the cultivated meat market could be worth up to US$25 billion globally by 2030. The alternative proteins sector will contribute $1.1 trillion to the global economy and create up to 10 million new jobs by 2050.

“Australia has the R&D expertise, the technology, and the entrepreneurial mindset required to accelerate developments in cellular agriculture, but we can’t be complacent,” added Eassom. 

“Other countries, such as Canada and Israel, are heavily investing in the alternative proteins sector, and Australia needs to move fast to be a major player in the region. Gaining regulatory approval for cultivated is the first, and essential, step if Australian businesses are to reap the benefits of being first movers in this nascent industry.”

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