Bringing to market cell-cultured collagen is the company's next step in a system-based approach to providing a sustainable alternative to complex animal agriculture.
Today, Aleph Farms, the Israeli startup that last year became the first company to grow cultivated beef steaks, announced it is expanding its repertoire to include cell-cultured collagen production. The company is taking a systemic approach to developing a complete alternative to animals in intensive animal farming to supplement more sustainable livestock agriculture practices, such as regenerative farming.
“The cellular agriculture industry has made greater promises to replace a large part of intensive animal-farming practices, which make up to 70 percent of global meat production. Cultivated meat, however, is only part of that solution — as meat represents just 30-35 percent of the cow that is slaughtered,” explains Aleph co-founder and CEO Didier Toubia. “The rest include many other valuable by-products. To achieve our vision, we need to provide alternatives to the other animal parts as well, including collagen-based products. Focusing on single categories of animal products does not account for the complexity of the animal agriculture ecosystem. The protein transition should rely on a systems-based approach to successfully contribute to a comprehensive, just and inclusive transition for animal agriculture.”
Thanks to a range of human health benefits — including everything from strengthening skin, hair and nails to relieving joint pain and promoting bone and heart health — demand for collagen-based nutrition and skin care products has soared in recent years. The global collagen industry is projected to surpass $6 billion by 2027.
Conventional collagen is produced by boiling and processing cow hides and bones. Aleph Farms’ cultivated collagen matches the attributes of natural animal-based collagen, and goes through similar enzymatic reactions occurring within the animal’s body that are responsible for creating such attributes — the company says this makes it superior to plant-based or fermented recombinant-based alternatives.
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Conventional, animal-based agriculture has been identified as a main driver of climate-change-driving greenhouse gas emissions (not to mention erosion of soil nutrients critical to human and ecosystem health, as well as providing a perfect petri dish for the next global pandemic); as such, global demand for plant-based and regeneratively farmed protein has skyrocketed in recent years. Aleph Farms is among a small but growing group of companies offering yet another alternative — growing cultivated beef steaks from non-genetically engineered cells isolated from a living cow, without slaughtering the animal and with a significantly reduced impact to the environment.
A recent study predicted that by 2040, 35 percent of all meat consumed worldwide will be cell-based. But in the meantime, the fledgling industry is still hard-pressed to meet global market demand. But as Toubia explained in a 2021 interview, Aleph’s unique technologies — which require only a fraction of the time and resources required for conventional meat production; eliminate the need for antibiotics; and reduce the timeline of farm to fork to three weeks, as compared with an average of two years for conventionally grown meat — are poised to scale.
Aleph Frontiers is a new division of Aleph Farms’ research center focused on the development of new technologies and products for eventual commercialization. As the first product to emerge from the company’s newly revealed incubator — and following 18 months of research by an expert team in stealth mode — Aleph’s collagen is now moving to full product development stage and should launch in 2024.
“We are leveraging key components from our production method for steaks, including our bovine cell sources and animal-component-free growth medium, to produce several nature-identical collagen types directly from cow cells, as well as the entire extracellular matrix (ECM) — which comprises a variety of fiber-forming proteins and represents the complete matrix of skin, bones and joints,” said Dr. Neta Lavon, CTO and VP of R&D at Aleph Farms. “Collagen is the most abundant protein in the ECM and is well recognized for its benefits.”
This announcement follows the company’s expansion to its new cultured-beef steaks pilot production plant. The two platforms share similar inputs and equipment, and present operational and cost-reduction synergies.