The world of fake meat continues to push the boundaries of what is possible as additional alternative protein companies enter the Australian market, overseas substitute companies expand and new vegan beef copycat products are launched.
The financial woes, driven by waning demand, of one of the world's largest fake meat companies, the United States-based Beyond Meat, do not seem to be sounding any warning bells.
Despite food marketers and researchers increasingly flagging vulnerabilities to consumer concerns and perceptions, particularly where products are laboratory-grown, the fake meat juggernaut has a full head of steam.
Scientists have for the first time obtained stem cells from livestock that grow under chemically defined conditions. In the United Kingdom, stem cell lines have been developed from pigs, sheep and cattle embryos grown without the need for serum, feeder cells or antibiotics.
Meanwhile, in Israel, MeaTech 3D has 'printed' a 104-gram steak using cells produced via a proprietary process that starts by isolating bovine stem cells from tissue samples and multiplying them.
Canadian plant-based meat brand Modern Meat will enter the Australian market early this year, following an agreement with supplier Viveri to distribute its Modern Burger and Meatballs, among other products, to supermarkets and retailers and via online platforms.
New Zealand startup Off-Piste Provisions has launched a vegan jerky following a pre-seed funding round that raised NZ$1.5 million in just two days.
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And this week, big European producer of meat and fish substitutes Schouten Europe announced it would take over Dutch food company Nijland Food and shut down that company's chicken processing.
Schouten, which sends its products to 50 countries, says the market for plant-based alternatives to meat is growing.
Cultured meat a step closer
The pluripotent stem cell work, conducted by researchers from the University of Nottingham's School of Biosciences in conjunction with other UK and Japanese scientists, is being touted as paving the way for the development of cultured meat on a significant scale.
It also offers new opportunities into gene editing animals to improve their productivity and adaptation to climate change, the researchers said
They believe the ability to derive and maintain livestock stem cells under chemically defined conditions will revolutionise future production of meat.
Research leader Professor Ramiro Alberio said the novel cell lines could differentiate into multiple cell types, be genetically manipulated and could be used as donors for nuclear transfer.
"Gene editing in this way makes modifications that could happen naturally over a long time, but in a selective and rapid manner to customise specific traits," he said.
"This can accelerate the pace of genetic selection of livestock and cultured meat to improve productivity and the creation of healthier foods.
"With a growing population to feed in a changing climate, finding reliable and sustainable food is vital. This research offers potential solutions that the food industry could use at scale."