JBS S.A. has begun construction on a $62 million research facility focused on cell-based meat production in Brazil.
The meatpacking powerhouse said its JBS Biotech Innovation Center will be the largest research center of its kind in the country and initially will focus on making the production of lab-grown meat more efficient, scalable and cost-effective. The facility is scheduled to open at the end of 2024.
The project is part of JBS’ larger effort to be a dominant player in the growing cultured meat sector. The company has begun construction on what it claims to be the world’s largest cultivated beef plant in Spain and when completed, should produce more than 1,000 metric tons of product per year.
The Biotech Innovation Center will be the first research, development and innovation center for protein derived from animal cells in Brazil, JBS said. It is slated to be at Sapiens Parque innovation park in Florianópolis, Santa Catarina.
The project underscores the meat conglomerate’s commitment to the growing cultivated protein sector and to offering innovative, high-quality products to consumers, Jerson Nascimento Jr., global director of supply and innovation at JBS, said in a statement.
“As a global leader in protein production, it is our responsibility to be at the forefront of the food industry,” Nascimento said.
Leading the project are Dr. Luismar Marques Porto, president of the cultured meat division and the JBS Biotech Innovation Center, and Fernanda Vieira Berti, vice-president of the research center.
“Without a doubt, this project will become an international reference,” Porto said in a statement.
In 2021, JBS acquired Biotech Foods and invested $100 million to fund two production projects: one in Spain and the other in Brazil.
JBS said Biotech Foods began construction on the world’s largest cultivated beef factory in San Sebastián last year with a focus on sausages, burgers, meatballs and other prepared foods. The facility is scheduled to be completed in Spain by mid-year 2024. The technology has potential to expand beyond lab-grown beef into cultured chicken, pork and fish production, JBS said.
In addition to JBS, peers Tyson Foods and Cargill have invested in lab-grown meat startups to learn from the growing sector and potentially diversify their product portfolios in the future.
Startups such as Memphis Meats, Aleph Farms and Believer Meats, formerly known as Future Meats, have received hundreds of millions of dollars in funding to scale their operations for commercial purposes. U.S. regulators approved the sale of cultured protein products from two companies earlier this year.
The cultivated meat industry faces major hurdles including cost and scale. Big meat companies like JBS are getting serious about scale and creating facilities, which is a promising step for the industry.