JBS dives into promising cell-based meat sector with acquisition of BioTech Foods

SPAIN – Brazil meat company JBS has diversified into the promising cultivated protein sector with the acquisition of BioTech Foods, a Spain-based company working on a cell-based pork product called Ethicameat. 

Founded in 2017, BioTech Foods has developed expertise in the cell-based meat segment and is the lead company in a European Union project called Meat4All. 

The food startup received part of a € 2.7 million (about $3 million) government grant for this project, which has the aim of scaling and improving cell-based meat production in Europe. 

The company also is leading a € 5.2 million (about $6 million) project funded by the Spanish government researching cell-based sustainable products with health benefits, including cancer prevention. 

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“This acquisition strengthens our strategy of innovation, from how we develop new products to how we commercialize them, to address the growing global demand for food,” Gilberto Tomazoni, global JBS CEO, said in a statement.  

“Combining technological know-how with our production capacity, we will be in a position to accelerate the development of the cultivated protein market.” 

BioTech Foods currently plans to reach commercial production of its products in mid-2024, according to the release from JBS. 

With the acquisition, JBS will have access to BioTech’s technology and protein production capabilities. 

BioTech will on the other hand benefit from the meat giant’s industrial processing capacity, marketing structure, and sales channels as it works to bring products to market. 

A US$100m investment 

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JBS has also announced a US$100 million investment to build both a new production plant in Spain for BioTech Foods and a cultivated meat research and development center in its home country of Brazil.  

The Spanish cultivated meat facility will be built at a cost of US$41 million and will be critical in helping BioTech Foods achieve its goal of commercializing its products by 2024. 

The Brazilian R&D center, to be led by two of the country’s top specialists in bioengineering, is slated to open next year.  

The center will feature a 10,000-square-meter (32,808-square-foot) plant, employing about 25 researchers. 

As the cultivated meat space continues to grow and develop, it makes sense that more traditional meat companies would want to get involved.  

And JBS, the world’s largest meat company, is leading the way, although other multinational food companies have partnered with cell-based meat companies — including Nestlé, Nomad Foods, and Mitsubishi Corporation.  

Earlier, JBS competitor BRF signed a memorandum of understanding with Israeli cell-based maker Aleph Farms in March to eventually bring Aleph’s products to Brazilian consumers. 

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