Climate change is blowing the winds of great change in the livestock industry as much as manufacturing. This is because 19% of greenhouse gases come from the livestock industry. It is also responsible for reducing forests for pasture and cropland. Efforts are being made to reduce methane gas to solve these problems, and at the same time, voices for animal welfare rights are getting louder. There is also a movement to replace meat with substitute and cultured meat.
In particular, global population growth and food shortages are increasing the need for cultured meat. While startups such as Upside Food, Eat Just, and New Age Eat in the United States are making tangible results with the development of cultured meat, in December 2020, Singapore approved the world’s first commercialization of cultured meat. In Korea, Space F, a company boasting excellent technologies in cultured meat, is the center of the buzz among industry officials.
Worry-free cultured meat for environment, economy, and ethics
Cultured meat refers to meat produced by growing stem cells in a culture medium. Unlike vegetable substitute meat, which is commonly called soybean meat, the biggest advantage is that there is no big difference in taste from meat because it is made by culturing actual stem cells. It can be eaten by those who have difficulty in eating vegetable protein due to constitutional or health reasons, and it does not require processing to create meat taste. Because it is made based on stem cells, it does not require a large space like a ranch or farm, and amount of carbon can be significantly reduced in this process.
More than anything, depending on availability of the technology, various parts of the meat can be enjoyed like real taste.
For this reason, NASA is also putting a great effort into researching cultured meat for astronauts.
Unrivaled technology of the world’s first development of pig embryonic stem cell line
Founded in 2020, Space F is a cultured meat specialist that has secured cultured meat patents and source technology through R&D with researchers from Seoul National University and Sejong University. Space F developed the world’s first embryonic stem cell line for pigs, and is currently holding applicable techniques. Cultured meat requires four major techniques of: cell line, culture media, and industrialization alongside massization. Space F has excellent techniques for cell lines and culture media in particular. Cell lines proliferate by extracting adult stem cells from livestock carcasses, but subcultures are limited because cells also age. Considering that cultured meat ultimately pursues ‘securing meat without slaughtering’, this is a fatal flaw. However, Space F secured the technology to proliferate cells indefinitely through porcine embryonic stem cell techniques.
Securing serum-free culture medium technique that does not require fetal bovine serum and slaughtering
The biggest advantage of Space F’s cultured meat is that it can be made without slaughtering. Cultured meat has a contradictory structure: Serum production, required for cultured meat production, includes pregnant cattle slaughtering which is against the not-slaughtering principle. The culture medium serves to supply nutrients for cell growth, and fetal bovine serum called FBS is generally used for this. Fetal bovine serum has an ethical problem because it must be extracted from the aforementioned fetus. In addition, in order to culture in the effective form, fetal bovine serum having the same components must be uniformly supplied. In other words, there is a fatal problem that the components of the serum are different for different carcasses. In other words, there is a fatal problem that the components of the serum are different. Advocates of animal welfare rights point out how the use of fetuses differs from slaughter. For this, Space F has developed a serum-free culture medium that can replace it, and has secured a technology that increases efficiency from muscle stem cell isolation to differentiation. Based on these skills, Space F is moving in the direction of solving the economic and ethical problems of cultured meat alongside securing production volume.
‘Alchemist’ selected as the finalist for the cultured meat project in Korea
Space F was selected for the Industrial Technology Alchemist Project in recognition of its various technologies mentioned above. The project, supported by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, aims to create new markets and industries through the development of technologies that can change the industrial landscape in 10 to 20 years and source technologies with great economic and social ripple effects. Space F was the only company that passed the third stage among the six teams that received the first stage task, and was finally selected for the main research stage in the eco-food (cultured meat) sector. The company received research funds of 20 billion won for 5 years from this year to conduct research for the development and industrialization of cultured meat production technology.
|▲ Space F / CEO Ben Kim|
Acquiring high evaluation of 4.6 out of 5.0 points
Leaping into the future global industry
Space F continues research to further advance cultured meat technology with researchers from Seoul National University and Sejong University. Food engineering experts are also participating in the research and spurring commercialization.
Earlier this year, the company announced prototypes of sausages, hamburger patties, and chicken nuggets made with cultured meat. And a tasting of the cultured pork sausage organized for meat experts and managers of large distribution companies was held. The sausage reduced amount of support content and realized similar ratio of muscles of pork.
At this tasting, Space F’s cultured meat received a high evaluation of 4.6 points out of 5.0 points, showing high potential for future growth. The company was recognized for its excellent technique for cultured fat that affects the taste of the meat significantly.
Currently, Space F is developing an edible culture solution with reduced unit cost by signing a business agreement with Daesang Co., Ltd. The company is also jointly developing high-performance materials necessary for cultured meat production with Lotte Fine Chemical. CEO Ben Kim said, “Cultivated meat is not intended to replace existing fresh meat. It will serve as a supplement to fresh meat in preparation for population growth and food shortages. We will leap forward with the goals of sustainable and safe food alternatives, global environmental protection and animal welfare, future-oriented cell farming technology, and entry into overseas markets through global networks.”
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