South African cultured meat start-up to develop Africa’s first lab-grown meat

Image Source: Mzansi

SOUTH AFRICA – Mzansi Meat, Africa’s first cultivated meat start-up based in South Africa has initiated the process of producing cruelty-free cell-cultured protein products, moving away from the traditional methods of harvesting livestock for meat.

Founded this year, the biotech company seeks to use cellular agriculture technology to grow meat from cells.

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Currently, it is testing a wide range and combination of animal-free biomaterials, hydrogels, plant cellulose and yeast cultures to engineer the scaffolding for cells to grow around, reports green queen UK.

The cell harvesting process the company uses is exclusively serum-free culture medium and placing these cells into a bioreactor so they are able to grow.

After the cells are harvested, the animal is then cared for in their specialised post-biopsy recovery facility.

When the process is complete, the meat is harvested and ready for distribution.

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“We want to be perceived as a food company, and not as a tech brand. We have the benefit of the fact that cultivated meat is not known in Africa and South Africa, so people have not had a chance to build up their defences yet.”

Co-founder of Mzansi Meat Co – Brett Thompson

According to the co-founder of Mzansi Meat Co, Brett Thompson, the creation of Mzansi Meat was inspired as he completed his honours thesis at the University of Stellenbosch.

The thesis, titled, “Making an Economic Case for Vegetarianism”, provided further insight into the meat economy of the country for Thompson.

Most South Africans’ daily diets consist of meat and have been synonymous with the local culture such as hosting a Sunday braai for family and friends. According to reports, the country is home to 14-million cattle and 30-million sheep.

Traditionally, livestock is maintained until it reaches maturity and once it has, the livestock is slaughtered and the meat cuts are harvested. 

Mzansi Meat Co believes that this method has become inefficient as many of the animals live in crowded unsanitary conditions.

According to the company, more than 60 million land animals are slaughtered globally every year and the process often involves using cruel and stress-inducing methods.

Mzansi Meat Co has developed a “cruelty-free” harvesting method that does not harm the animal and allows it to live a longer life.

The biotech also believes that there are also added benefits to cultivating meat as there is no use antibiotics to ensure the health of the livestock which has led to a rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Thompson shared that being the first African cell-based startup, faces the challenge of consumer acceptance.

The global cultured meat market is estimated to be valued at US$ 15.29 Million by year 2021.

“We will have to figure out how to overcome the consumer barriers,” explained Thompson.

“We want to be perceived as a food company, and not as a tech brand. We have the benefit of the fact that cultivated meat is not known in Africa and South Africa, so people have not had a chance to build up their defences yet.

“Therefore, this flip side that not a lot of people know about cultivated meat is, at the same time, an opportunity”.

Investors interest in the company

Since its inception, Mzansi Meat Co. has already attracted the eyes of international investors, including Ryan Bethencourt, the founder and CEO of California vegan pet food brand Wild Earth and early-stage alternative protein investor.

“Really excited by the incredible work that Paul Bartels, Jayson Claude Van Der Walt, Brett Thompson and the entire Mzansi Meat Co. are doing to transform the future of meat across Africa and the world,” said Bethencourt.

Bethencourt has previously backed VeggieVictory, Nigeria’s first plant-based meat company developing locally manufactured and shelf stable vegan products suitable for Nigerian cuisine dishes, such as efo riro stews.

According to the current analysis of Reports and Data, the global cultured meat market is estimated to be valued at US$ 15.29 Million by year 2021, and reach a value of US$ 19.0 Million by year 2026, at an estimated CAGR of 4.4%.

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