SCiFi Foods, a California-based food tech company, is focused on decreasing the beef industry’s carbon footprint and increasing public health with cell-based beef. The company is scaling up and hopes to launch its products in the next couple of years.
Co-founders Joshua March and Dr. Kasia Gora are working on SCiFi Foods’ first product launch for a burger that combines plant-based ingredients with cultured beef cells. This month they will begin piloting the prototype of the plant-based portion of their burgers with Michigan State University’s Food Processing and Innovation Center.
“Price, taste, and health are all imperative for us when it comes to our first and future products, too,” says SCiFi Foods Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Joshua March.
SCiFi Foods announced it is the first company to grow edible beef cell lines that grow in single-cell suspension. Using CRISPR, a gene editing technology, the SCiFi Foods team harvests live beef cells to create meat alternatives that taste more like meat.
While SCiFi uses genuine beef cells, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Dr. Kasia Gora, says the cells come “from a safe, sustainable, cruelty-free cell culture process and not from factory farms.” The nutrient composition of the burgers, especially protein content, is “on par with leading plant-based burgers,” Gora tells Food Tank.
According to Gora, cultivated meat may be “significantly safer for consumers than conventional meat.” She attributes this to the fact that cultured meat has “less risk of contamination [and] zoonotic diseases.”
Cultivated beef can also bypass other risk factors associated with traditional beef production, Gora says, including rising costs. This year, the price of meat, poultry, fish, and eggs climbed 14.3 percent from last year, the most significant 12-month increase since 1979, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Input prices for feed, fertilizer, and fuel are at an all-time high.
Gora notes that since SCiFi Foods produces its cultured beef in a lab, the company can combat the “increasing costs for labor, fuel costs, and rise in the price of grains fed to farmed animals.” Moreover, Gora says, SCiFi Foods’ products have the potential to “reduce the impact of animal agriculture.”
Cattle represent an estimated 62 percent of the livestock sector’s emissions, according to a Global Livestock Environmental Assessment Model from U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Prospective life cycle assessments from The Good Food Institute imply that cultivated meat will use less land and water, emit fewer greenhouse gasses, and reduce agriculture-related pollution and eutrophication than conventional meat.
Gora hopes SCiFi’s products will “appeal to a broad audience” and emphasizes that scaling up sustainable meat alternatives will be “necessary for impact,” especially as the climate crisis and supply chain shortages threaten traditional beef supply chains.
By Sycamore May