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Middle East and Asia likely to become biggest markets for cultured meat: CEO of Aleph Farms

DAVOS: With concerns about intensive agriculture and its detrimental role in climate change, progress in cell-cultured meat has accelerated in recent years.

The companies and scientists behind creating meat, fish or dairy products using an animal’s cells in a lab, safe for the animal, have received substantial support over the past half-decade.

One such company, Israel-based Aleph Farms, raised more than $100 million in last year’s Series B funding round and counts actor Leonardo DiCaprio among its backers.

It is on track for a market launch by the end of this year, or early 2023 at the latest, its co-founder and CEO Didier Toubia told Arab News during the World Economic Forum.

“It will depend on regulatory approval, but we are actively working to ensure that approvals come as quickly as possible, it’s not an exact science,” he said.

As food security concerns mount, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, war in Ukraine, disruption of global supply chains and rising shipping costs, there is strong will policy of finding safer local ways to produce high quality food. nutrition, says Toubia.

He believes that the Middle East and Asia will be significant markets for the cultured meat sector.

Although this is a relatively new technology, Toubia does not expect consumers to resist eating cultured meat over that produced by traditional methods. (Supplied/Aleph Farms/Technion-Israel Institute of Technology)

“In the Middle East, there are two or three countries relatively aware of cultured meat,” he said.

“We are working closely with the UAE, with investments in the company during the Series B funding round last year.

“Because it’s produced in a closed system, we can produce meat regardless of the availability of local arable land, in any climate, so it’s a great solution for producing meat in the Middle East. or in Asia, in countries that are highly dependent on imports – especially for beef, which is our priority.

“That’s why the UAE and Israel are interested in what the company has to offer. Israel imports 88% of its beef, China imports 90% of its beef, Japan 65%, there therefore has a strong desire to find alternatives,” he said.

While the United Arab Emirates and Israel are leading the way in the MENA region in terms of regulatory approval, Toubia said Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait are also considering it seriously.

“Overall, I think the Middle East and Asia will become one of the biggest markets for cultured meat in 10 years, there’s no doubt about that,” he said.

Although it is a relatively new technology, Toubia does not expect consumers to resist eating cultured meat over that produced by traditional methods, according to market research.

Aleph Farms No Slaughter Steaks. (Provided)

“We saw a high level of expected acceptance ranging from 70-90% across the board in the Middle East and Asia, overall it’s high everywhere,” he said.

“It will take education to really realize the potential of cultured meat because it’s a new way of producing meat.

“But the benefits are clear, it’s a safer way to produce meat, it’s safer because we don’t have pathogens, the transparency of production is higher.

“Nutritional quality is important to us, but also culinary, sensory quality, so our first product will be fine beef, which corresponds very well to Asian food culture.

“We can also adjust the nutritional profile of our meat, to make it healthier or more suitable for specific consumers, and create a repeatable meat eating experience, which is difficult with standard meat, so there’s a lot of aspects that make it appealing to consumers,” he said.

Toubia also does not envision cultured meat production bankrupting small or traditional farms, but rather as a developing alternative to intensive and concentrated farming practices and a complement to small farms.

Aleph Farms’ production costs are expected to be 30-50% higher than conventional meat production initially, but Toubia said the company has “a clear roadmap to reduce this” within five years following its launch by 2028.

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