While in Singapore e Israel The first farmed meat production plants have already been opened, as well as the sale to the public of chicken meat from the American company Eat just, in Mexico it can be made in a few years and sell this new food resulting from meat cultivation (in vitro).
According to an analysis of McKinsey, by 2030, farmed meat can provide up to half of 1 percent of the world’s meat supply, with implications for multiple sectors, as although this sounds like science fiction, It should be considered that just a decade ago, cultured meat was the futuristic dream of a handful of academic scientists who have already made it real.
In vitro meat is formulated using a process that does not depend on animal husbandry To obtain meat, it is done by taking small samples of animal cells and growing them in a controlled environment, through cell manipulation and modeling techniques, and thus scientists can make chicken breast or beef.
Although the process to produce large quantities of this food is still very complex, this technology may arrive in Mexico in the coming years, although not to completely replace the market, because the per capita consumption in the country of chicken is 34.2 kilograms, with a production of 3 million 476 thousand 622 tons; while the consumption of cattle is 15.1 kilograms per capita with a production of 2 million 27 thousand 634 tons.
In an interview with MILLENNIUM, the academic of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Zootechnics of the UNAM, María Rubio, pointed out that the technology of meat grown in Mexico has only been managed by a working group that she formed two years ago, with personnel from Tec de Monterrey , ofl Center for Research and Advanced Studies of the IPN and the UNAM.
“We have not obtained public money, we write projects to the National Council of Science and Technology (Conacyt), to the UNAM, and nobody has wanted to support us, so at this moment this issue is stopped in the country. We know that there are people interested in making investment in this area in Mexico, we know of some meat companies (I cannot reveal the name) that have the possibility of making this technology, and they are attending conferences of this type of science called cellular agriculture ” , he claimed.
He explained that in Mexico there is very little progress, since there is no startup (emerging company) that is already operating in this sector because the cost of production is complicated, but he did not rule out that in a few years it could reach the country and Latin America since Brazil and Argentina already work with a company, “then Mexico I am sure that soon it will take out one that is interested in investing in this “.
When asked if this process is expensive, the specialist commented that the company Eat Just went to Singapore to put out chicken nuggets at the end of last year; the company raised $ 300 million in 10 rounds of investment, “and they are just getting a few nuggets with few cells, I don’t think they are one hundred percent meat.”
“That is, 300 million have already been working, they had been working for 10 years. Dr. Mark Post (the pioneer of in vitro meat) who has been working in this area since 2006, in 2013 he released the first artificial hamburger from a company called Mosa Meat that is in the Netherlands, but they have not yet released a product to the market ; like Future Meats, a company that is in Israel that they say is a cultured meat factory and they are hundreds of millions of dollars ”, he pointed out.
In this sense, McKinsey explained that many things have to happen for cultivated meat to becomen an important industry, since among other things it is necessary to spend tens of billions of dollars to scale even to 1 percent of the world protein market.
“The focus for the next decade will likely be on demonstrating commercial viability, with modest market penetration. To be successful, the industry must mitigate potential concerns around a novelty food while offering delicacies at the right price, ”said McKinsey.
Rubio indicated that it is a delayed job because it has many technological challenges, and since private companies are the ones that have made the greatest progress, they do not publish how they are doing their projects; “They have already said that they do not use fetal bovine serum, I think they still have technical problems when it comes to cell prolificacy.”
“We don’t even know if they have problems with the fact that if they reproduce too much (the cells) they can become cancerous, which is another problem, that is, there are many technological challenges that they do not tell us; The only thing that happens is that if they are already selling product, it is because there is a regulatory authority in a country that is already accepting them, from the point of view that they are theoretically innocuous products for people to consume ”, said the academic.
Still no profitability
Rubio pointed out that it is difficult to know how much meat has been produced in the world, since companies do not fully disclose their results, but he said that it is still expensive to develop it and recalled that there are many startups that sell the product but at the cost of the investment they have done, so it is not a business profitable still.
“I don’t know if Future Meats, in Israel, or Eat Just, in Singapore, the business is really starting to be profitable for them, or if they use investors’ money to get the product, and sell something so that they continue to collect money, keep investing and getting more technology, “he said.
Rubio commented that until last year he had the notion that this technology would take a long time, since the challenges are still many; however, he noted that there are many researchers who have shown that progress is truly “overwhelming.”
“I did not believe that they are already sold in some restaurants (Singapore and Israel); I think there are few cells that are inside, but these people are taking it out now. I am amazed, by the challenges that were two years ago and now everyone is doing it, there is a lot of development and it is already being sold, there are already startups that sell cell culture media for you to do the cell culture without using fetal serum bovine ”, he commented.
For the scientist it is a fact that this technology is here to stay and that it will be in Mexico but that it will occupy a small niche, since he said this will not replace the common animal meat, since companies cannot make the millions of tons of what is consumed, that is, “there will not cease to be the slaughter of animals and Animal production”.
The specialist explained that as soon as a Mexican company is interested in these processes, get closer to the people who know how to make the necessary scientific adjustments to prepare the regulations that will have to be implemented so that the Mexican authorities allow this type of food.
“Then that will happen the same as everywhere. Once the process is known, a risk analysis is made in the stages, and a form of control and inspection is developed. For me it is a fact that this is going to happen soon in Mexico, we are interested in having this type of technological development here ”, indicated the UNAM scientist.
He explained that the process to get cultivated meat is very simple, since it is based on regenerative medicine, just like the stem cells that are in the navel of a person. These cells have what is called a prolificacy (the number of young born per parturition), so a specialist can remove them and they can become any type of tissue of any living being such as cattle and pigs.
“The process is simple, you take a 5-gram piece of meat from a live animal; from there to the laboratory where all the washes are done; you separate the satellite cells; then they start to reproduce but at 10 or 15 times the process stops. Then it must with the animal and bring more cells. This is where a lot of science is done ”, he concluded.