From springbok to beef and chicken – cultivated meat is coming to South Africa
Thanks to a bunch of innovative South African companies the food of tomorrow may be arriving on your dinner plate sooner than you think.
“Probably the easiest [to make] is your typical ground meat mincemeat product that one can produce, which can be made into various products. And then of course, the gold standard one day is going to be that whole cut steak produced as a whole construct.”
These are the words of Dr Paul Bartels, a wildlife veterinarian with over 25 years’ experience in biobanking, cell culture, and assisted reproduction technologies. It was this work which led Bartels to founding the Mogale Meat Company, which has been researching how to grow meat – from springbok to chicken – in its laboratories in Hartbeespoort, South Africa.
“At some stage, I read an article about cultivate meat, and suddenly the light went on, you know, here was a massive opportunity to actually play a much larger role in conservation,” says Bartels.
Bartels has a long list of accolades in genetics. From being involved with the first artificial insemination of an eland; to being one of the researchers behind cloning the first cow in Africa; and the founder of the Wildlife Biological Resource Centre (which later became the SANBI National Biobank) that has for the past 20 years collected and archived sperm, tissue, blood products and the DNA samples of some 880 species of African animals, endangered and common, for research and conservation purposes.
Now, Bartels wants to be part of a solution to counter the rising the cost of meat and its impact on the environment. Africa alone is expected to add 1.3 billion people by 2050—that’s almost 1 in 4 people on Earth – and land and food security are going to be massive challenges for the future, he says.
“We’re looking at making your better tasting [game] meats, which is species like your springbok, and impala. So, we are working with several wildlife species now. It’s a lean meat, it’s so much healthier than beef.”
It’s not just wild meat that Mogale is making. In May 2021, Mogale partnered with Cryowild BioBank NPC, University of KwaZulu-Natal, and Tshwane University of Technology to found MeatOurFuture, a non-profit organisation, that wants to feed a billion people with cultivated chicken meat.
The project has gone on to be included as one of 28 semi-finalists from 14 countries competing in the XPRIZE Feed The Next Billion competition, which incentivises protein-based alternative technology with a $15-million prize. Over a three-year period, they need to produce a chicken breast or fish fillet alternative that is not only tasty and nutritious, but also cheap.
“But now what that means is that we’ve got some very strict timelines. So, within a year, we basically have to produce about an 80 gram whole cut chicken as the first milestone… and if you then get chosen to go into the finals, we’ve got another year where we have to produce up to three kilograms,” says Bartels.
The company has set its eyes on producing their first tasting prototype of meat by the end of the year.
Courtesy of FoodStuff SA – full article here