In world first, Israel approves cultured beef for sale to the public
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In world first, Israel approves cultured beef for sale to the public

Startup Aleph Farms to introduce its laboratory-grown ‘Black Angus Petit Steak’ to diners later this year; Health Ministry hails measure as important step in feeding world

Aleph Farms' cultivated thin-cut steak. (Courtesy)
Aleph Farms' cultivated thin-cut steak. (Courtesy)

In a world first, Israel has approved the sale of cultured meat based on beef, the Health Ministry said Wednesday.

Permission for a “new food” product was given to Aleph Farms to sell its cultured meat in Israel.

In the past Singapore and the US have approved cultured chicken for sale, but Israel is the first to give beef the go-ahead.

The ministry said the approval came as part of a pilot program for alternative protein carried out by the Department of Food Risk Management at the ministry’s National Food Service. It said that in light of the growing global demand for “products of non-living origin” it is working to approve alternative food sources.

In a statement, Aleph Farms said the ministry in December issued it a “no questions” letter for its Aleph Cuts brand, meaning the product is recognized as safe.

Aleph Farms CEO Didier Toubia welcomed the development, saying that “addressing common challenges such as food security will be the best way to ensure the prosperity of the Middle East region, as well as other regions around the world that are significantly dependent on food imports, with an emphasis on Asia.”

The company still faces a bureaucratic process before the products are available for purchase. It hopes to roll out its Black Angus Petit Steak later this year, according to Hebrew media reports.

Yoav Reisler, senior marketing and communications manager at Aleph Farms, told the Green Queen website that the plan is to introduce Aleph Cuts to diners “offering exclusive tasting experiences curated in collaboration with select partners.”

“At the time of our soft launch, Aleph Cuts will be priced similarly to premium conventional beef,” he said, adding that the company intends to take steps to bring down the cost within a few years.

To produce its meat, Aleph leverages the ability of animals to grow tissue muscle constantly and isolates the cells responsible. It then reproduces the optimal conditions for these cells to grow into tissue, basically growing meat outside the animal. The tissue is grown in tanks that act as fermenters, similar to those in a brewery. There the cells are nurtured and shaped into a 3D structure that makes the meat.

In January, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau determined that the cultured meat produced by Aleph — though not necessarily all cultured meat — is kosher and “pareve,” designating a food that is neither meat (sometimes referred to as fleishig) nor dairy (milchig).

Lau’s ruling was based primarily on the fact that Aleph, along with several other companies, uses a process in which its meat is cultivated from stem cells taken from fertilized egg rather than from cells of muscle tissue.

Ziva Hamma, director of the food risk management department at the Health Ministry, said in the statement that the approval makes Israel “a world leader in the field while protecting public health.”

Hamma explained that a variety of factors were examined, including toxicology, allergens, nutritional composition, microbiological and chemical safety of the cultured meat, as well as its production process, beginning with the initial cell isolation from which the meat is grown, right through to packaging the final product.

Earlier this year Aleph Farms also initiated the process of obtaining regulatory permission for its products in Switzerland. In March it announceds that it was teaming up with Singapore’s ESCO Aster, a contract manufacturing organization, to establish a facility for the production of cultivated meat in the country with a capacity to produce 10 to 20 tons of its steaks per year.

Toubia co-founded Aleph in 2017 with Prof. Shulamit Levenberg of the Biomedical Engineering Faculty at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, alongside Israeli food-tech incubator The Kitchen, a part of the Strauss Group. To date, the startup has raised a total of about $120 million from a number of private and public investors such as actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio.

The startup is one of the main players in the growing Israeli food tech sector, which in recent years has become an important hub for cultured meat — a key subsector in the alternative protein market, which comprises plant-based substitutes for meat, dairy, and egg; cultured dairy, meat and seafood; insect proteins; and fermentation products and processes. PJC

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