A South African-based cellular agriculture food-tech company, Mogale Meat, is developing solutions to future-proof Southern Africa’s inadequate nutrition and food security issues – including creating cell-based cultured meat from free-roaming antelope and cattle.
Company CEO Dr Paul Bartels tells FoodIngredientsFirst how cultured meat in Southern Africa provides a leap toward a more sustainable meat production process and how cultured meat technology can help unlock some of the biggest nutrition issues facing the region’s food industry and potentially solve the food security dilemma.
“Southern Africa is plagued by undernutrition, including stunting, wasting, underweight and micronutrient deficiencies. Meat, and more specifically cell-cultured meat, can provide some of the essential nutrient requirements and is efficient, given its enhanced bioavailability as compared to some plant diets,” explains Bartels.
“Cell culture meat derived from African antelope is a lean, healthier meat as compared to meat derived from livestock species.”
FoodIngredientsFirst journalists Nicole Kerr and Gaynor Selby report that Africa’s expanding population is rapidly outstripping the continent’s ability to supply affordable nutritious foods.
Cultured meat is a giant leap forward in meat production as the global nutritional demand increasingly exceeds agricultural production capacity, placing untold strain on the natural environment and resources, stresses the company.
Bartels’ strategy is to advance bio-technologies to provide affordable healthy and nutritious cell-cultivated meat products to a growing population, to the benefit of animals, people and the planet. It simultaneously addresses the UN Sustainable Development Goals challenges and supports the conservation of Africa’s biodiversity for future generations.
Another of the company’s objectives is to preserve Africa’s rich wildlife reserves and heritage.
A two-way technological approach
Bartels details the cultured meat production process and how cells are used in this process.
Cellular meat production is a multi-stage process that entails cell line isolation of the antelope meat, cell starter culture, cell expansion and cellular differentiation.
During the cell starter culture, the cells are screened and selected. In the cell expansion stage, the cells are replicated at an increasing scale. Finally, the cellular differentiation stage involves cell aggregates being harvested and formed into meat products.
Bartels details that the company has focused on antelope species and cattle since its establishment in 2020.
“In the short time that we have been in operation, we have been able to produce and cryopreserve more than 500 cell cultures from five antelope species and cattle,” says Bartels.
“These collections are being screened to select cells to be added at our next stage of development, namely cell scale-up in bench-top bioreactors.
“Here again, we are approaching the technology in two ways, firstly the use of embryonic stem cells and secondly the production of fat and muscle stem cells derived from the collection of small biopsies.”
The types of meat used also encompass the two-way approach. “Our strategy is two-fold, namely to focus on the meat from antelope (venison), which is a lean and healthy nutritious meat. Secondly, the variety of antelope species will allow us to produce novel foods, differing in taste and texture,” he explains.
When cell-cultured meat reaches the retail store shelves, it is expected to be a nutritionally healthier meat option, adds Bartels.
“This is because the process of ‘farm to fork’ of cell culture meat production does not include a multitude of steps as seen in conventional meat production,” he continues.
“The steps such as acute and chronic stressing – due to transporting livestock to crowded feedlots – use of excessive antibiotics, loading and transport to abattoirs and the slaughter process can decrease meat quality.”
These steps can lead to the quality of the meat end product being compromised, he notes.
In addition, growth hormones and antibiotics in meat derived from factory farms can disrupt normal metabolic processes and exacerbate antibiotic resistance, while zoonotic diseases are increasing due to the practices of factory farming and wet markets. These are other factors that are driving the development of cellular agriculture technology.
Impact on environment
Cell-cultured meat is predicted to have a massive impact on the environment, wildlife and biodiversity in Southern Africa, affirms Bartels.
“As Africa’s population is expected to double in the next 30 years, it will total over one billion more people on the continent of Africa,” he adds. “One can only predict that with millions of more people wanting to eat meat, that more land will have to be transformed into crop production for feeding more livestock, destroying millions of square kilometres of natural habitat.”
To solve this environmental and food security dilemma, Mogale Meat Co sees part of the solution as the production of cell-cultured meat.
“The cell-culture meat production ticks many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals of saving natural habitats, fighting poverty, improving food security, decreasing GHG emissions, conserving energy – through the use of renewables – and conserving water,” Bartels concludes.
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