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The future of alternative meat technology is being built in Israel

aAt the annual Food Tech Israel Conference in Tel Aviv on November 7th, exhibitors will be offering hydroponic vanilla, reduced sugar, protein bars with all the benefits of breast milk, and textured improvements. provided a sample of a kind of pond scum that has been depleted. Flavors of caviar and notes of wheatgrass – a taste of the futuristic foodscape. But the front of the stands saw the largest queues serving more traditional exposition fare, such as lamb kebabs, pulled him beef pitas, and burger sliders. Those invited to the private tasting ate steak, roast beef with potatoes, chicken sausage, and a sticky triangular grilled cheese sandwich. It was enough to make even the most devoted carnivore crave salad.

But it was a scene that even vegans can enjoy. The cheese was made from microalgae, the roast beef was as juicy and flavorful as the real thing, and made from fermented plant proteins.The kebabs, burgers and pulled beef were plant-based. The chicken and steak, provided off-site by SuperMeat and Aleph Farms, respectively, were cultured from biopsied stem cells in bioreactors. The only animal-based product seen at the venue was a lonely quart of milk tucked behind a plant-based alternative at a coffee stand.

The future of food technology in Israel does not seem to include animals. Israel is second only to the United States in terms of startups and investments when it comes to alternative protein companies, and has received about $1 billion from investors since 2020. With the highest percentage of vegans in the world despite its low red meat consumption, Israel is well placed to incubate a new meat revolution with global ambitions. Three of the cultivated meat companies were founded in Israel, and all three (Aleph Farms, Super Meat, Believer Meats, and Nasdaq-listed newcomer Steakholder Foods) are waiting to be approved by local food regulators to sell their labs. We are ready for international distribution. -grown meat.

read more: Lab-grown chickens get green light from FDA

Given its history as a politically isolated nation in water-scarce regions, Israel has long been forced to innovate when it comes to the food sector. In the meantime, the country has grown into a powerhouse of agricultural technology. Israel’s poultry and dairy industries supply more than 90% of her domestic demand, but rely on grains that must be imported from abroad. The borders with Lebanon and Syria are closed due to the ongoing conflict, and trade with neighboring Jordan and Egypt is almost non-existent. Because of political tensions over the illegal annexation of Palestinian territories in the West Bank.

Meanwhile, population growth in both Israel and the West Bank of Palestine is driving up property prices and reducing arable land. Climate change-induced water scarcity makes irrigation of new crops less predictable and costly. “Land is scarce here, water is expensive, so we have to focus on innovation,” says Didier Tubia, his CEO and co-founder of Aleph Farms. Cultured meat grown from stem cells in bioreactors uses up to 78% less water and requires less land, according to the Good Food Institute (GFI), an international advocacy and research organization promoting alternative protein technologies. up to 95% less. , compared to conventional beef farming.

The Israeli government is keenly aware of the limitations of conventional livestock farming and is promoting alternative proteins as an engine of economic growth, a technology to mitigate the climate crisis, and a food security asset. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sampled steak from his farm in Aleph on December 7, 2020, and was the first head of government in the world to taste cultured meat in public. “Israel will become a powerhouse of alternative meats and alternative proteins,” said President Isaac Herzog, nearly a year later, becoming the first and so far only president to try poultry farming. In April this year, the Israel Innovation Authority poured $18 million into a newly formed cultivated meat consortium, bringing together 14 Israeli companies and 10 academic laboratories to reduce costs and increase production. And in September, the government declared “food tech with a focus on alternative proteins” as one of five national R&D priorities.

Pond scum (duckweed) based caviar made by GreenOnyx presented at the FoodTech IL 2022 conference.  (Tal Shahar + Atikam Ben Yosef)

Pond scum (duckweed) based caviar made by GreenOnyx presented at the FoodTech IL 2022 conference.

Tal Shahar + Atikam Ben Yosef

In terms of government support for emerging industries, the first country to allow the sale of farmed chicken produced by American startup GOOD Meat (then known as Eat Just) in December 2020 was , Singapore only. Neil Goldstein, managing director of GFI Israel, says he lags behind Israel when it comes to scientific research and development. Part of Israel’s progress is due to a sense of urgency. “We understand that Israel’s contribution to the fight against climate change may lie in protein innovation,” said the founder of several alternative protein companies. “We grow in challenges and conflicts, so the Israeli mindset is problem-solving, which leads to innovation,” says Arik Kaufman, CEO of Steakholder Foods. He hopes Israel will follow Singapore’s lead and seek regulatory approval for commercial sales.

According to a 2017 survey, the latest available, 5% of Israelis are vegan, 8% are vegetarian, and another 23% say they want to consume less meat. Even the Israeli army provides recruits with vegan meals, boots without leather, and berets without wool. Real meat minus slaughter, cultured meat may not appeal to those who have given up on animal products entirely, but the waste, climate impact, and inhumane treatment of industrial livestock production may not be appealing. Jewish laws regarding kosher slaughter, and the ban on mixing meat with milk, allow consumers, even if they are not particularly religious, to understand where their food comes from. Yonatan Golan, CEO of Brevel, which manufactures the plants, said, Base cheese using microalgae. “In Judaism, you have to wait several hours before eating milk and meat, so your dessert must be innovative. Or maybe you want to have that creamy dessert, so you want to innovate your dinner. It creates an entire ecosystem of innovation and openness to trying new things.”

It remains to be seen whether the lab-grown burger with plant-based cheese will pass the strictest Jewish food laws. But a focus on climate-friendly foods that avoid animal suffering follows another tenet of Judaism, says Yoav Reisler, his senior marketing manager at Aleph Farms. He uses his phrase Tikkun Olam, a Hebrew word meaning “to mend the world.” This is often used with respect to social behavior. “Cultivated meat is one of the solutions to remediating the world for a better purpose.”

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