Consumption of livestock products has increased tremendously in the last decade. In the next decade, the steepest growth in this sector is projected to come from South Asia and other parts of Asia. However, in the current landscape of cultured meat startups, not many companies from Asia are focused on red meat products.
Is there a unique opportunity for cultivated red meat in Asia?
Asia is recognized as the leader in fish and seafood production and consumption. However, the increase in its demand on meat in recent years is less recognized. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization FAO), the expansion of a middle-income consumer class will drive a shift of meat consumption towards higher beef and lamb consumption.
Global beef and sheepmeat outlook
Asian countries are among the highest importers of red meat. Is this an opportunity for cultivated red meat companies to serve Asian consumers? Dr. Vinayaka Srinivas, co-founder of Gaia Foods, certainly thinks so. A a scientist with over 10 years’ experience in muscle stem cell biology research, Srinivas founded Gaia Foods together with Dr. Hung Nguyen, a medical doctor and cancer biologist, aiming to be the pioneer in the cultivated red meat sector in South East Asia.
Cultivated meat for Asian cuisine
With their skills in biological research, Srinivas is quite confident that he and his partner have an advantage when it comes to the cell line. “We produce meat from our muscle stem cells in a non-GMO manner. We found ways to sustain the stem cells for significantly longer duration than their natural state, which have limited growth potential. This technology can yield reduced costs and improved control on cell quality and quantity,” Srinivas told me in a Zoom conversation.
Most of the meat consumed in Asian cuisine is from structured meat cuts. This means that scaffold technology, which add texture and layers to the meat, is added to the list of technological hurdles that cultivated meat companies need to overcome. Gaia Foods is working on developing a non-animal-based scaffolds that facilitate stem cell attachment and growth. The startup hopes to later adapt its scaffold for different types of meat products.
Srinivas also shared with me the future plans for Gaia Foods. Despite intermittent access to their lab in Singapore due to the COVID-19 crisis, Srinivas remains optimistic that a lab prototype of cultivated beef is achievable by the end of 2020. Gaia Foods is also looking to launch its cultivated meat products in Singapore’s premier restaurants within the next couple of years.