Israel-based food-tech startup BioBetter has developed a technology to leverage tobacco plants to produce ingredients that accelarate cell growth in lab meat manufacturing.
As the name suggests, lab-grown meat is a process of extracting cells from a living animal and then growing them in a laboratory. The meat created in this way is also called cultured meat.
The animal meat that is currently produced on an industrial scale, is not only expensive but it is environmentally draining with a huge requirement for land, water, food, and energy. Cultured meat or lab-grown meat is considered to be more efficient, less resource-intensive, and more environmentally friendly.
However, one of the major impediments to lab-grown meat technology is the availability of cell growth factors (GFs), which are needed for cells to multiply during the production process of cell-based meats. The current process involves using a mix of amino acids, nutrients, and GFs like insulin and transferrin, which are sourced from livestock. Sourcing growth factors from livestock makes it difficult to obtain them in large quantities.
The team at BioBetter has found success in creating cell growth factors, using tobacco plants. This biological discovery can be a game-changer for the lab-grown meat market, as it can push the cost down.
There are many advantages of using Tobacco, as the plant can be harvested four times a year, which would allow for higher volume. Additionally, Tobacco does not compete with the food chain, and using it for cultured meat will give an alternative revenue stream for tobacco producers.
BioBetter was founded by Oded Shoseyovin, along with Dana Yarden and Avi Tzur in 2015 and has since been researching Tobacco plants for its other use cases.
It will be interesting to see how the consumers and industry react to this unique tobacco and lab-grown meat combination. On one hand, Tobacco is considered addictive, health-damaging, and against societal norms, while on the other hand, lab-grown meat is being regarded as the future of meat that is clean and animal-friendly.
In other news, the world’s leading tobacco company ITC, which also has a dominant presence in the FMCG market in India has made a foray into the plant-based meat category. In January 2022, ITC Limited’s launched plant-based burger patties and nuggets that provide the taste of chicken to consumers.
Will these two pieces of news converge at some point in time, we have to wait and watch.