This week, Israel-based startup Aleph Farms unveiled the world’s first ribeye steak cultivated in a lab setting. The steak features all of the structures common to the ribeye cut, including muscle, fat, and a vascular-like system, but does not come from the raising and slaughtering of a cow. Instead, Aleph Farms uses innovative 3D bioprinting technology that relies on a small amount of animal cells that are incubated and grown to create the meat structure without genetic engineering or immortalization. 

Developed at The Technion— Israel Institute of Technology—Aleph Farms’ new cultivated ribeye steak is a proof of concept for now but the company plans to use the technology to add new cuts of meat to diversify its portfolio. “With the realization of this milestone, we have broken the barriers to introducing new levels of variety into the cultivated meat cuts we can now produce. As we look into the future of 3D bioprinting, the opportunities are endless,” Shulamit Levenberg, a professor at Technion and Aleph Farm’s Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Advisor, said. 

Bringing lab-grown meat to life

Aleph Farms debuted its first version of cultivated steak—a thin piece of meat that did not undergo its 3D bioprinting process—in 2018 and has since increased its size and adapted it to be viable for large-scale production. In 2019, Aleph Farms grew its cell-based steak on the International Space Station outside of the Earth’s orbit to show that the technology can create food sources with very limited natural resources such as land and water. The new cultivated ribeye steak builds upon Aleph Farms’ initial cell-based steak to provide the same sensory experience of a thicker cut of meat one might get at a butcher shop.

“This breakthrough reflects an artistic expression of the scientific expertise of our team,” Aleph Farms CEO and Co-Founder Didier Toubia said. “I am blessed to work with some of the greatest people in this industry. We recognize some consumers will crave thicker and fattier cuts of meat. This accomplishment represents our commitment to meeting our consumer’s unique preferences and taste buds, and we will continue to progressively diversify our offerings. Additional meat designs will drive a larger impact in the mid and long term. This milestone for me marks a major leap in fulfilling our vision of leading a global food system transition toward a more sustainable, equitable, and secure world.”

Currently, Aleph Farms is transferring its first commercial product—which Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tasted in December—to its first BioFarm, a pilot production plant with a launch planned for 2022. While Singapore is the only country in the world that allows the sale of cultured meat, given the level of innovation in the nascent industry happening in Israel, the Middle Eastern country could be next to grant cultured meat regulatory approval.

Photo Credit: Aleph Farms

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