This week, food company BRF, S.A.—one of the largest meat suppliers in the world—signed a deal with Israel-based cultured meat company Aleph Farms to bring its innovative lab-grown meat to Brazil. Under the Memorandum of Understanding agreement, BRF will co-develop and produce lab-grown meat in one of Aleph Farms’ BioFarm platforms. While traditional animal agriculture requires many inputs and produces large amounts of greenhouse gases, Aleph Farms’ approach relies on a few animal cells that are grown in a bioreactor to create meat without the need to slaughter animals and with a much smaller environmental footprint.
“BRF is ready and charged to play a leading role in this food revolution and be an active participant in one of the greatest industry transformations of this generation,” BRF CEO Lorival Luz said. “Since 2014, we have witnessed an increasing global demand for new sources of protein driven by several factors, namely environmental concerns, new diets and lifestyles, which has spurred the growth of new dietary genres including flexitarianism, vegetarianism, and more.”
Growing meat for the future
Aleph Farms debuted its first cultivated steak 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. Last month, the company unveiled a 3D-printed cultivated ribeye steak that 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. Currently, the company is transferring its first commercial product to its first BioFarm, a pilot production plant with a launch planned for 2022.
One of the biggest hurdles for the novel meat technology to come to market is regulatory approval. In December 2020, Singapore became the first country in the world to approve the sale of lab-grown meat and other regions are expected to follow. In meat-heavy Brazil, the deal between Aleph Farms and BRF will prove monumental once the country gives lab-grown meat regulatory approval. “We are thrilled to join forces with BRF, a global food and meat industries leader. This new partnership advances Aleph Farms’ strategy to integrate into the existing ecosystem as part of our go-to-market plans,” Aleph Farms Co-founder and CEO Didier Toubia said. “Leveraging the expertise and infrastructure of leading food and meat companies will drive a faster scale-up of cultivated meat and eventually lead to a broader positive impact. As one of the largest beef producers in the world, Brazil is a strategic market for us. We have been impressed by the strong commitment from BRF management to innovation and sustainability. We are convinced that shared values are the key to a successful long-term partnership.”
Fighting the climate crisis with cultured meat
BRF currently has 30 brands in its portfolio, many of which make hot dogs, prosciutto, and chicken nuggets from traditionally raised animals, and generated $7.25 billion in revenue last year. BRF will distribute Aleph Farms’ cultured meat as part of its 2030 Vision Strategy of investing in more environmentally friendly practices while increasing its revenues to $18.5 billion by 2030. The partnership also aligns with the broader climate goals of Brazil, which committed to reduce its total net greenhouse gas emissions by 43 percent by 2030.
“This is yet another step that strengthens the innovative journey of BRF to offer a choice of alternatives to consumers, optimize efficiency and at the same time reduce the strain on the production chain,” Sergio Pinto, Director of Innovation at BRF, said. “We are a food company that invests in advanced technology and respects and combines new trends associated with social and environmental sustainability. By producing high-quality sustainable cultivated meat, we can further establish our role as agents of transformation in the food industry, by offering the latest innovations in the production of meat.”