Cultivating meat could be a step towards alleviating food security, says Brett Thompson, the chief executive of Mzansi Meat Co, the first cellular agriculture start-up in South Africa and Africa.
“A lot of people maybe don’t have access to protein and meat,” explains Thompson. “We’ve always considered this as something that can combat food security. The only way we can do that is by bringing this price parity. We’ve always had scale and cost in mind to be able to do that.”
Mzansi Meat Co, which was founded in 2020, first sold its product in Singapore in the same year. It is part of a fast-growing alternative protein ecosystem in South Africa championing healthy meat grown from cells instead of taking it from animals.
Thompson says, “Mzansi Meat is changing the world by providing options to people. We’re creating abundance, we’re taking a few cells, and we’re turning them into trillions and then into beef burgers. We’re enabling people to be able to enjoy what they hold dear because of their culture, without attacking it, and without taking away from it.”
He believes that by making the right choices, it will benefit human health and the environment.
How it works
Thompson explains the process of growing meat without the animal.
“We start with the cell, which is harmlessly taken from an animal’s body. We perfectly replicate the conditions that are found in the body, at about 37 degrees with the correct amino acids, fats, and salts. That starts the process of proliferation, and when those cells start developing, we start seeing muscle forming, as well as fats. We harvest those muscle and fat cells, and we combine them with a bit of plant protein to make burgers. ’
Thompson believes that Mzansi Meat Co is showcasing the capability that exists on the continent. “There’s a huge gap that exists on this continent. It’s been really important to be based here to bring the talent that comes from pharmaceutical and medical industries to the fore.”
The Mzansi Meat team enjoyed a braai to illustrate that cultivated meat is not meant in any way to take away from the fun and culture and can be part of our every-day experiences. However, the issue of costs must be tackled before cultivated meat becomes an option, according to Tasneem Karodia, co-founder of Mzansi Meat, “That really can change consumer behaviour, for the betterment of a lot of things – for people, for animals, and for the environment.”
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