When Mosa Meat presented the world's first cell-cultured hamburger in 2013, the Dutch scientists were at the beginning of a long journey of trying to use technology to cultivate meat without animals and use it to help feed the world.
The company is still on that path, but is nearing the end of the phase that CEO Maarten Bosch described to Food Dive as working through the scientific challenges to make that happen. Now, the company is ready to move to the next step: accepting that cultured meat will be a reality and getting Mosa Meat ready to provide products to consumers.
To help Mosa Meat on the next phase of development, the company announced two new partnerships last week. The company will be working with animal nutrition company Nutreco, which will help provide the nutrient-filled liquid to grow the meat. Nutreco also pledged an undisclosed amount of money to the company, as did climate-minded investment firm Lowercarbon Capital.
Mosa Meat is aiming to get cultured hamburgers on the market in Europe in the first half of 2022, Bosch said.
"We're able to make a few hamburgers, but we need to make millions or billions of hamburgers," Bosch said. "It's about scaling up the process and bringing down the costs. And that's something that's not going to happen overnight, obviously. ...We're hoping to enter the market in a couple of years with a relatively small scale and relatively still a high price.
"But that's not the big vision. The big vision is that we want to have a global impact and want to offer delicious meat at a very competitive price," he said.
Mosa Meat's first hamburger cost about $280,000 to make, but that price point mainly came from the components needed to make it. The Dutch researchers used pricey fetal bovine serum, which is actually drawn from fetal calves, to grow the meat cells. Fairly recently, Bosch said, Mosa Meat found a replacement that does not come from an animal. He didn't specify its composition, but said it was a major breakthrough, performing as well as the animal-derived serum — and sometimes better.
However, Mosa Meat has been relying on pharmaceutical companies to make some of the components needed for culturing meat, Bosch said. These companies made high quality materials, but not necessarily in the large quantities Mosa Meat needs, and at a higher price point than a company trying to reduce consumer costs would want. Now Mosa Meat will instead work with Nutreco, which will use its supplies and expertise to make some of what the meat company needs at a lower price.
"To really realize a global supply of good raw ingredients to feed to our ourselves and at a price level that is enabling us to be truly competitive, we need a company that's set up like Nutreco, and we've been talking to them for awhile," said Bosch. "They see the opportunity and also really believe in our mission and in the positive impact we can make on some truly big problems in the world."
Bosch said Nutreco and Mosa Meat are continuing to work together on developing solutions. Exact formulas and needs are still being engineered, but both companies will research it together.
The support from Lowercarbon Capital — an investment firm started by Lowercase Capital founders Chris and Crystal Sacca, as well as Clay Dumas, a former advisor to President Barack Obama — came because of Mosa Meat's mission. As its name implies, Lowercarbon Capital is dedicated to putting money toward sustainability and helping the planet.
"They have a long horizon. Their interests are truly aligned, which is very important also to me," Bosch said. "And they have a great network and a great reputation, which will help us to attract similar-minded investors. Because, to be honest, we will need more capital in the future if we really want to see our ambitions turn into reality — and that's ... impact on a global level."
Mosa Meat has been steadily working toward that goal. The company has a new facility in Maastricht — a few minutes from Maastricht University, where its research started. Bosch said he anticipates as the year continues, the facility will become busier. Later this year, the company will present its plans for a pilot plant where meat is to be produced, which will be part of the same complex.
Bosch said the company is also starting to think through regulations so that when there is a product to sell, there will be a market for it.
"It's ... uncharted territory, so it's kind of tricky on how to approach this," he said. "... We want to be as transparent as possible. We truly believe in the benefits of our technology. So we want to help move the field forward. And that also involves helping regulatory bodies to figure out on how to approach their approval process."