Hybrid meat products on the rise

With a cell-cultured product, people can consume meat that is entirely lab grown. With a hybrid  product of cell-cultured and plant-based, consumers can get the taste and feel of real meat but with plant components added in. | Getty Images

Food companies develop a new alternative to traditional meat that is a combination of cell cultured and plant based

Plant-based alternatives to meat have been increasing in popularity for years, but now a new product has hit markets — a hybrid of plant-based and cell-cultured meats.

New Age Meats, based in California, recently announced $25 million for its first pork hybrid product, which it plans to start production on in 2022.

Derin Alemi, director of operations and finance at New Age Meats, said the company developed the product to appeal to more environmentally conscious meat consumers.

“Our global population will increase plus-25 percent to nearly 10 billion people by 2050 and 86 percent of the population consumes meat in one form or another,” Alemi said. “ Sticking with existing methods is not sustainable. Additionally, current industrial farming methods fall short on animal welfare and increasingly, there is health risk of diseases born from these environments. All of which can be mitigated with a different approach that doesn’t depend on animal slaughter (and consumers can) still enjoy that experience.”

With a cell-cultured product, people can consume meat that is entirely lab grown. With a hybrid product of cell-cultured and plant-based, consumers can get the taste and feel of real meat but with plant components added in.

“Plant-based ingredients have been out in the marketplace for some time and are further along from a commercial readiness and volume availability than cell-cultured ingredients,” Alemi said. “The cost is also far less with plant-based. By using a combination of the two, we feel we can come to market much faster than if we wanted to have only cell-cultured product offerings. And that formulation will evolve with time as we continue to dial in to what consumers enjoy most — first and foremost on taste.”

A product made of partially plant-based and partially cell-based ingredients would have lower costs than cell-cultured products.

According to an academic article titled “Effect of information on consumers’ sensory evaluation of beef, plant-based and hybrid beef burgers,” one way hybrids could do this is by looking at the parts of plant-based meat that are better than traditional meat, and where lab grown meat can be included so that it will add the most value but at the lowest cost. An example is combining plant-based meat with cell cultured fat.

Sylvain Charlebois, a professor at Dalhousie University and food industry analyst, said cell-cultured meat is currently illegal in Canada, although he believes it will become legal by 2025.

“The technology is compelling, and the case is pretty strong environmentally, and socially, ethically,” Charlebois said. “However, food is about culture, food is about traditions, right? And to basically just push aside hundreds and hundreds of years of history, it’s not something that can happen overnight.”

He said other locations, such as Singapore, where cell-cultured meat was first legalized in 2020, may be better candidates for acceptance of the hybrid products because they lack enough room to produce meat using traditional methods.

“In Canada, we do have space. So we’re not in a hurry to replace anything,” Charlebois said.

“But let’s say that tomorrow, we decide to only eat cultured meat. What’s going to happen to all the farmland we have that is currently used to feed animals? This is Canada, one of the largest countries in the world. So land occupancy policies will have to be visited.”

Alemi said the next step seems like a no-brainer for New Age Meats.

“Consumers aren’t eating meat for the sake of slaughtering animals en masse, so, if we can deliver on what the consumer wants and eliminate greenhouse gases, slaughterhouses and the risks of animal-borne diseases… why wouldn’t we?”

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