Vow and Nourish team up to make cell-based meat with animal-free fat

Dive Brief:

  • Cell-based meat company Vow is partnering with Nourish Ingredients, a company that makes animal fats through precision fermentation. The two Australian companies will blend their products together, adding fats to cell-based meat so the end product more accurately reflects the taste and mouthfeel of meat from an animal.
  • Vow co-founder and Chief Commercial Officer Tim Noakesmith said in a written statement that fat is “part of what makes meat irresistible,” and it has been missing from many alternative proteins. “We’re committed to including a fat profile in our food that outperforms even the best animal fats we eat today,” he said.
  • While there is only one place where cell-based meat is currently on the market — Singapore, which has given regulatory approval to Eat Just’s cultured chicken bites — many companies are working on cell-based meat products so they could be ready for the market once they are federally approved.

Dive Insight:

Fat is vital to meat’s taste, juiciness and mouthfeel, but it isn’t talked about much by cell-based meat companies at this point in time. While many of them are likely working on culturing fat cells or discussing partnerships with companies specializing in producing animal-free fat, Vow is one of the first to come to the forefront with this kind of plan.

The motivation behind the partnership is producing a better product. According to the statement announcing the two companies’ partnership, Vow and Nourish have the end goal of making something that is superior to meat from an animal.

Vow has already taken an unconventional path to creating memorable cell-based meat, and has even cultivated exotic animal cells into meat for food. Last September, Vow held a tasting event with cultured meat from six different animals: kangaroo, alpaca, goat, pork, rabbit and lamb. Vow has a “cell library” featuring cells for potential cultivation from a diverse array of species.

On its website, the company explains most meat that people eat comes from four animals, which make up 0.02% of all of the animal species on earth. Vow says it is “[d]iscovering the secrets hidden in creatures we’d never thought to ask. With no harm caused we’re exploring options previously ignored, and raising the odds of making better meat.” While its website doesn’t indicate which animals it’s looking at, company leaders have mentioned zebra, yak and Galapagos tortoise in previous interviews.

The unconventional approach has paid off for Vow. The company has attracted $6.8 million in funding, according to Crunchbase, including a $6 million seed round that closed in January.

Nourish has also turned some heads. The company was founded by two scientists who formerly worked at Australia’s national science agency. It uses precision fermentation — utilizing the technology to produce a substance identical to animal fats — to make an animal-free ingredient. Earlier this year, the company had an $11 million initial funding round.

There are other companies dedicated to animal-free fats, made through cell-culture and fermentation. However, most of them have so far been focused on creating an ingredient to enhance plant-based meat. Cultured fat producer Peace of Meat, which was acquired in December by Israel-based cultivated meat maker Meat-Tech 3D, seems to be focusing on this market — not on the cell-based meat its parent company is working on.

It’s unclear at this point how close Vow is to a marketable product. In order to gain regulatory approval in Australia and New Zealand, the shared government agency regulating food must do a lengthy safety assessment of cultured meat products that will likely be at least 14 months long, according to The Good Food Institute. However, bringing Vow and Novel’s products together could allow for a more complete cell-based item to hit the market. 

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