Innovating Meat Production: Startup Targets Bioreactor-Made Pork Using Stem Cells

Introduction: A groundbreaking startup, Meat Tomorrow, is on a mission to revolutionize meat production by replacing traditional pigsties with advanced bioreactors. Resembling large steel tanks used in brewing, these bioreactors, instead of brewing yeast and hops, will cultivate stem cells derived from pigs. If successful, this innovative solution could pave the way for a future where minced meat originates from these bioreactors.

Milestone in Meat Innovation: CEO and co-founder of Meat Tomorrow, David Valbjørn, envisions presenting the company’s first stem-cell meatball by early 2025. This achievement marks a significant milestone as Meat Tomorrow aims to persuade the conventional meat industry to transition from traditional animal slaughtering to harnessing meat from bioreactors.

Environmental and Ethical Motivation: Expressing concerns over conventional pig production in Denmark, Valbjørn highlights issues such as environmental impact, high water consumption, antibiotic resistance, and compromised animal welfare. Meat Tomorrow sees bioreactors as an eco-friendly and ethically sound alternative to traditional farming practices.

Technical Challenges and Solutions: To turn the concept into reality, Meat Tomorrow faces the challenge of rapidly dividing stem cells and guiding their development into fat and muscle cells. The key is maintaining pluripotent stem cells, capable of developing into various tissues. Meat Tomorrow has developed a solution to stabilize pluripotent stem cells, ensuring their rapid division for efficient meat production.

Innovation Hub Collaboration: Operating out of DTU Skylab, DTU’s innovation hub in Lyngby, Meat Tomorrow has successfully identified signaling molecules to influence and retain pluripotent stem cells. They are in the process of patenting this solution after a year of intensive research and development.

Scaling Up with Consortium Collaboration: Meat Tomorrow is part of a consortium, collaborating with another university and a company to raise funds for a bioreactor. This joint effort aims to scale up cultured meat production, showcasing the technology’s capability to produce larger quantities of meat. The consortium, a first-of-its-kind in Denmark, is a significant step towards demonstrating the viability of cultured meat on a larger scale.

Future Vision and Industry Impact: Meat Tomorrow envisions cultured pork being available in supermarkets within seven to eight years. Rather than becoming meat producers themselves, the company aspires to sell the technology to companies within the conventional meat industry. This approach aligns with their goal of driving widespread adoption of cultured meat, offering an ethical and sustainable alternative to traditional meat production methods.