Making meat in Africa… but how?

Newform Foods
6 min readMay 10, 2022

We get plenty of questions about our meat, the production process, scale and everything in between. So we’ve created this FAQ blog as an ongoing resource about our company, our science and our process. Any questions you’d like to add? Let us know on Twitter or LinkedIn.

FAQs:

What sparked the idea of making cultivated meat?

Mzansi was born out of a relentless desire to change food systems. We want to help feed the next billion in Africa by offering alternative solutions to conventional agriculture. That’s not to say we don’t want to work alongside the conventional meat industry because that’s something we will do. In order to keep up with demand, we need solutions and that’s what inspires us to make meat in Africa.

Explain the research and development process.

After roughly 18 months of research and development, we unveiled our cultivated beef burgers at a bespoke event in Cape Town. Innovation is an ongoing process and in order to get the best results, we’ve built a team with experience in biotechnology, cell culture, food technology and clean tech. This means we’ve been able to scale up our operation and create more meat in less time. Our team of experienced senior and junior scientists from South Africa’s top universities, assist in the process of scaling up and quality control.

Since this is a first in Africa, where will burgers be available?

Keep a lookout for announcements dropping soon 👀

Can you explain the process from farm to fork?

We begin on an animal farm sanctuary. An experienced veterinarian performs a punch biopsy, removing a tiny sample of tissue cells from a donor animal. A long-acting pain relief medication ensures the animal experiences minimal discomfort. At our Mzansi Lab at BioCiTi Cape Town, they’re grown in a controlled environment using our specially made bioreactors, which replicate the natural environment inside the animal. When we have enough tissue mass to make a burger patty, our protein partners help blend a portion of plant-based ingredients into the final product. We’ve been working with Mane and Deli Spices to ensure the overall appearance, texture and flavour are authentic and beefy. Mane brings over 150 years of flavour experience and over 40 years of meat blend expertise to the table. While Deli Spices is one of the leading seasoning and additive blend suppliers to the Sub-Saharan food industry. The last step in the journey before it reaches the plate is a rigorous taste test from the Mzansi Head of Taste, Absie Pantshwa.

Initially, what will be the cost of a burger at a restaurant that is made from cultivated meat? Why did you decide to start off with a burger?

We’re still working with retailers and restaurant partners to determine pricing and a rollout plan, but as mentioned, the burger will be available for a reduced price initially so that as many people as possible can try our meat. Since we’re such a braai-loving nation, it was always our goal to make meat ready for the fire and the plan was always burgers first and next up — sausages? Keep your eyes on our pages to find out!

What are the health benefits of cultivated meat and will it be more or less nutritional than meat from a slaughtered animal?

Cultivated meat gives us the chance to make the best meat possible without harmful additives or hormones. We can say for certain that our meat will be trans-fat free, as this is a type of unsaturated fat produced by the gut bacteria of the animal. Since we grow our meat outside of the animal, trans-fats no longer form part of the process.

We make and develop our meat in a lab and therefore the risk of it being contaminated with potentially harmful zoonotic organisms is zero. Meat produced using conventional agriculture, however, has a bigger risk of contamination as it exposed the animals to an external environment, which increases exposure to various disease-causing pathogens. We developed cultivated meat products in an extremely sterile, medical-grade environment, which eliminates any risk of contamination.

What’s next after the burger?

Once we have optimised our bovine (beef burger) cell line, we will start focusing on expanding our portfolio of species. Currently, we have beef and pork, in the works. We’re also working to expand our current burger product formats to include sausages, nuggets, and crumbed-based meat cuts. Our team is also working on other exciting species and more will be revealed on that soon!

How big is the cultivated meat industry in SA? And how do you think South Africans will take to meat grown in a lab?

The industry did not exist until we started Mzansi Meat Co. which gave us the advantage of creating the narrative. Initially, our meat will be grown in our labs until we scale up into a food production facility, which will look similar to a brewery. According to research from NGO Credence Institute, 53% of profiled participants would pay a higher price for cultivated meat when it’s available, which is a positive data point as we prepare to release our burger commercially and scale up our operation.

Is cultivated meat likely to pose a threat to the meat industry in SA as it stands?

Cultivated meat will help keep up with the demand for meat in the future. That’s why we’re working with the conventional meat industry, subsistence farmers and animal sanctuaries to gather cells needed to help feed the growing population. We see cellular agriculture as a way to reimagine and innovate the conventional meat industry to get more protein to more South Africans.

Is it plant-based?

No, this is the meat you’re used to, just made differently.

Is foetal bovine serum used in the process?

We used FBS in the initial process. However, like all other companies, we’re in the process of replacing FBS for two main reasons.

  1. FBS, which stands for foetal bovine serum, is a crucial serum supplement for the in vitro culture of eukaryotic cells, particularly mammalian cells. FBS is derived from the blood drawn from a bovine foetus, a by-product of the meat industry. Therefore, to ensure all products are 100% cruelty-free, we’re replacing it.
  2. The cost of FBS is exponential and typically makes up over 70% of the overall cost for the growth media. Replacing FBS with an economical and ethical substitute will allow us to develop meat products that are as close to price parity as conventional meat products.

Is our meat halal or kosher?

Halal and kosher certification will mainly depend on the overall process of how the product is produced and if the products avoid any non-halal ingredients. (the same applies to kosher)

Is our meat genetically modified?

We used no genetic modifications for the development of South Africa’s first cultivated beef burger. The cell lines we use grow and perform as they would inside a cow, therefore there was no need to modify them.

What’s next for Mzansi Meat Co?

Next, we’re scaling up with additional cultivators to allow us to increase our capacity and we’re working on plans to build a pilot production facility. This will give us the ability to produce tons of meat every month. We’re excited about our cell lines, including popular domestic animal species like beef and pork. We also have a Nguni cell line which forms part of a unique and proud African bovine species.

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Newform Foods

Newform Foods is leveraging a continent-spanning R&D network to help food producers develop and scale cultivated animal products, fast & affordably.