Cultivated meat eel from organoid technology
Alternative Proteins

Organoid technology and cultivated meat

Organoid technology is now another approach to cultivated meat. This time it’s for cultivated eel! Better known in the medical field, organoid technology grows miniature organs from stem cells, organoids, for human research. These range from stomach and liver to brain organoids. Now Israel based Forsea are applying the technology to cultivated meat production.

What are the advantages?

The process apparently has two major advantages over other cultivated meat manufacturing techniques. Firstly, it doesn’t require scaffolding to give the product structure.  Forsea co-founder Iftach Nachman says their system means that “The cells organize themselves autonomously into their innate, purposed structure, just as in nature”​ This greatly simplifies the manufacturing process and reduces costs.

Secondly, much less growth medium is required and the organoids produce their own growth factors. This can decrease growth factor requirement by 90%, significantly reducing growth medium costs.

Overall this technology promises to significantly reduce both the costs and manufacturing complexity of cultivated meat.

The nutrition, texture and taste of these organoid derived products are claimed to be identical to conventional seafood and will be critical for consumer acceptance.

Where to now?

Forsea have set their sights on, of all things, eel! Eels are a delicacy in East Asia and their popularity has resulted in them becoming an endangered species. As co-founder Roee Nir says “The market demand for eels is enormous. In 2000, the Japanese consumed 160,000 metric tons. But due to overfishing and rising prices, consumption has dwindled to just 30,000 metric tons.” This means the price is no some USD70 per kg, so selecting eel as the first product is a very smart decision. It means that the product can be price competitive much earlier than when competing with a USD6.50 product like beef mince.

The technology isn’t limited to eel but can be used for any seafood as well as beef, pork or chicken.

The Future

We’re now seeing many different technologies being applied to growing cultivated meat. Everything from 3D bioprinting to organoid technology, which one will survive long term? Will all of them have a place?

This multiplication (pun intended) of cultivated meat technologies increases the probability of success. This is what those who see cultivated meat as a case of “the emperor’s new clothes” fail to appreciate. All of the evaluations, LCA analyses etc are limited by one fact; they can only assess technologies that exist at the time of evaluation. They essentially extrapolate linearly from present day knowledge; you can’t evaluate that which doesn’t yet exist!

Cultivated meat’s success is not yet a given but it’s looking more probable each year.

I love the future. Articles like this are why I get up in the morning, to see what new technological advances the day will bring.

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