- At least two-thirds of plant-based meat producers would be likely to incorporate cultivated fat into their products if it makes an improvement in taste, texture or clean label attributes, according to a new survey by cultivated fat producer Peace of Meat.
- Peace of Meat, which is owned by cell-based meat provider Meat-Tech 3D cultivates fat from chicken and duck cells. It is working with other manufacturers to commercialize hybrid products that use cultured fat melded with plant-based protein sources, the company told Food Ingredients First.
- Plant-based protein sources continue to gain marketshare, but are still far behind the dollar sales generated by the conventional meat industry. Companies are working to improve the taste of vegan alternatives to persuade meat eaters to make the switch.
Taste continues to pose a significant barrier to companies looking to convince carnivores to try plant-based products. A 2019 Kerry white paper found taste was meat-eating consumers' top consideration when choosing plant-based substitutes. However, the survey from Peace of Meat showed clean labels and texture may be even more powerful motivators to manufacturers looking to increase the adoption of plant-based alternatives.
A survey by The NPD Group found 89% of plant-based meat consumers were meat eaters. This means it is vital for plant-based protein manufacturers to match the taste and texture profile they are accustomed to from animals. Achieving this goal has posed challenges, since vegetable fats have a tendency to escape from plant-based meat alternatives during cooking, reducing the characteristic juiciness of animal protein. And fat also imparts flavor.
Peace of Meat is working to solve this conundrum by working with plant-based meat producers to create craveable products that are a hybrid of plant-based ingredients and cultivated fat. While these products would not be vegan, they also would not be derived from animals. Cultivated fat is produced by growing fat cells taken from an animal in a nutrient solution. It is identical to fat from a slaughtered animal, but does not require that an animal be killed.
Using cultivated animal fat in a plant-based product has the potential to minimize the number of binding agents, flavors and other ingredients traditionally used in the segment. It also could improve the nutritional profiles of products. While consumers say plant-based alternatives make them feel healthier, some dietitians argue that the amounts of sodium and saturated fat in plant-based burgers can be about the same as those made of beef. By incorporating cultivated animal fat, companies can theoretically use fats that have increased levels of better-for-you components like omega-3s.
That said, cultivated fat is a new concept with no products commercially available. Many companies are busy in the R&D phase. In order to get products to market, the potential regulatory framework is unclear in most countries. The only jurisdiction that has approved cell-based products so far is Singapore, which greenlighted cultured chicken nuggets from Eat Just in December. The approval is specific to one particular cell line, Eat Just has said.
Peace of Meat, which was recently acquired by Meat-Tech, does not expect to have a product range commercially available before 2022. Even when products do appear, they likely will be at a premium price and in very limited quantity. Meat-Tech officials told Food Dive before the acquisition was finalized that they are hoping to have cell-based fat available before its more comprehensive meat products because of the potential for its use as an ingredient in these more hybrid types of products.