Israel’s Aleph Farms Ltd., a startup that grows meat cuts directly from cattle cells, is gearing up to become the first to sell cultivated beef steaks in Europe.
The Rehovot-based maker of cultivated meat this week initiated the regulatory process to sell Black Angus-style thin cultivated cuts in Switzerland, a country where grazing cows are an unofficial national symbol and food traditions are deeply rooted in the culture. Aleph Farms said its application for regulatory approval from the Swiss Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO) marks the first-ever submission for cultivated meat in Europe.
For the regulatory process and commercialization of its cuts, Aleph Farms has teamed up with Switzerland’s largest supermarket chain, Migros, which first invested in the startup in 2019. The Israeli firm has set up similar partnerships with other multinationals: Japan’s Mitsubishi Corporation’s Food Industry and US-based food corporation Cargill have also invested in the startup.
Later this year, Aleph said it is targeting the rollout of its first product, a cultivated thin-cut steak, in limited quantities in Singapore and Israel, pending regulatory approvals.
“Food systems affect everyone, and it will take a coordinated effort between regulators, innovators and incumbents to ensure food security in a way that helps humanity live within its planetary boundaries,” said Aleph Farms co-founder and CEO Didier Toubia. “Together with Migros, we are establishing the cow cell as the third category of food products from cattle, alongside beef and milk.”
Prior to the submission to regulatory food authorities in Switzerland, Aleph and Migros conducted consumer research in the country and explored its regulatory landscape for novel foods. Switzerland was found to be a country with a high affinity for innovation. According to the joint research, 74% of Swiss consumers are open and curious to try cultivated meat and are motivated by ethical principles, including sustainability and animal welfare.
Aleph and Migros will develop a commercial strategy that involves the distribution of Aleph cuts through fine dining food service channels in Switzerland.
To produce its meat, Aleph leverages the ability of animals to grow tissue muscle constantly and isolates the cells responsible for that process. It then reproduces the optimal conditions for these cells to grow into tissue, basically growing meat outside the animal without using antibiotics. The tissue is grown in tanks that act as fermenters, similar to those in a brewery. There the cells are nurtured and shaped into a 3D structure that makes the meat.
Toubia co-founded Aleph in 2017 with Prof. Shulamit Levenberg of the Biomedical Engineering Faculty at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, alongside Israeli food-tech incubator The Kitchen, a part of the Strauss Group. To date, the startup has raised a total of about $120 million from a number of private and public investors such as actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio.
The startup is one of the main players in the growing Israeli food tech sector, which in recent years has become an important hub for cultured meat — a key subsector in the alternative protein market, which comprises plant-based substitutes for meat, dairy, and egg; cultured dairy, meat and seafood; insect proteins; and fermentation products and processes.