SMALL CAP IDEAS: Are we ready for lab meat? BSF Enterprise hopes so

The race for the commercial distribution of lab-grown meat is on and BSF Enterprise, the UK’s leading listed company, has entered the fray in a big way.

According to the Good Food Institute, there were more than 100 “cultured meat” companies globally at the end of 2021, spread across 25 countries, and venture capital investment in the sector has increased by 70% from a year to year.

This month, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared the way for California-based start-up UPSIDE Foods, which grows meat from cells taken from a healthy live chicken, to deliver its food on the market.

Lab Meat: 3D Bio-Tissues, a wholly owned subsidiary of BSF Enterprise, recently made a major breakthrough towards its goal of producing the first large scale farmed meat fillet in the UK.

UPSIDE Foods’ approval comes two years after petri-dish-raised chicken nuggets from fellow California competitor, Eat Just, received regulatory approval from the Singapore government.

Soon after, the world’s first cultured meat product was sold to consumers, albeit within the exclusive 1880 Members Club, where membership will set you back a few thousand pounds.

Laboratory meat is also making huge strides here in the UK, and one of the companies leading the charge is BSF Enterprise’s wholly owned subsidiary 3D Bio-Tissues (3DBT).

3DBT recently made a major breakthrough towards its goal of producing the first large-scale farmed meat fillet in the UK.

Three small fillets of meat, approximately 30mm tall and 15mm in diameter (smaller than a 5p piece), weighing five grams, were produced in the lab, and according to 3DBD Managing Director Che Connon, these bite-sized fillets “cooked really well and the smell was amazing.”

“It really reminds you of delicious roast meat!” Connon boasted.

Sounds great, but with such advanced technology, the journey to supermarkets won’t be easy.

We believe our prototypes are among the first cultured meat fillets in the world, which represents a revolutionary development for the industry.

While the technology has proven itself, scaling up is the biggest challenge in the burgeoning industry.

Admittedly, things have come a long way since 2013, when the world’s first lab-grown burger came with a price tag of $330,000.

But according to recent studies, a kilogram of meat grown from cells would cost $63/kg (£53) to produce in a large-scale facility.

Therein lies the problem, but in BSF’s intellectual property portfolio is City-Mix, a supplement that replaces expensive serums needed to grow meat cells.

Connon claims that City-Mix reduces the cost of “serum-free media” by up to 15 times, making it a real competitive advantage.

3DBT now wants to create its cruelty-free lab meat in early 2023 while continuing discussions with manufacturers, positioning the company as a licensor of the technology rather than mass-producing the meat in-house.

Plant-based meat substitutes entered the mainstream in the late 2010s, but there has been a noticeable slowdown more recently.

As an indication, the meat substitutes industry’s flagship, Beyond Meat’s stock has crashed nearly 80% this year, while U.S. retail sales have fallen 11% on a year, according to the company’s latest quarterly report.

International retail sales were significantly worse, falling from $21 million to $10 million year-over-year.

Slowdown in meat alternatives: Beyond Meat’s stock tumbled nearly 80% amid falling sales

For more empirical proof, just go to the local supermarket; cut-price Impossible and Beyond burgers are commonplace. Good news for hungry vegans, not so much for the plant-based meat business.

But lab meat is a different game, and so is the addressable market.

According to The Humane Society, “lab-grown meat isn’t technically vegan because it contains cells taken from real, live animals.” In truth, vegans and vegetarians are not the target market for lab-grown meat.”

Although lab-grown meat does not come from the slaughter of animals, it comes from the harvesting of cells from a living animal.

According to The Humane Society, cells taken from a single cow can produce “an astounding 175 million quarter-pound burgers.”

There’s no doubt that lab meat is infinitely more humane and environmentally sustainable than factory farming, but veganism isn’t exactly known for compromising.

On the contrary, lab meat companies are hoping to divert your usual farmed meat carnivore, and if they can tempt their taste buds, the potential market is obviously huge.

The total value of meat in the UK has risen by 5.9% to £9.1billion in 2021, official data shows, while the average American eats around 224 pounds (101 kilograms) of meat red and poultry per year.

“We believe our prototypes are among the first cultured meat fillets in the world, which represents a game-changing development for the industry,” Connon said.

They should be presented in the coming months, and then the regulatory approval process will have to begin.

Since the UK Food Standards Agency has not yet approved a product of this type, it is unclear where the decision will lie, so a risk factor certainly exists for this purpose.

As for BSF, the AIM-listed parent of 3DBT, its stock (not of the live variety) soared 30% to 10.5p this week, giving the company a market value of over $9m. pound sterling.

The first days, of course, but to watch.

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