Africa's population is predicted to increase from 1.3 billion to 2.5 billion people by 2050, resulting in an increased demand for meat. However, increasing livestock production to meet the demand has negative environmental consequences, as studies have shown that livestock emits a lot of greenhouse gases.
A South African startup, Mzanzi Meat, has become the first on the continent to make lab-grown meat in an effort to reduce the environmental impact of animal husbandry. The company was established in 2020 and is mostly supported by South African and international investors, the majority of whom are concerned about the environment and animal welfare.
According to Mzansi Meat's Chief Financial Officer, Tasneem Karodia, the conventional manner of rearing animals has become inefficient because many of the animals live in cramped, unclean conditions. Every year, more than 60 million land animals are slaughtered around the world, and the process is frequently carried out in brutal and stress-inducing ways.
The procedure starts at an organic local animal farm, where vets carefully harvest small tissue cells from free-roaming donor animals. The cells are usually taken from the shoulder, where there's a lot of muscle and fat. The procedure is simple, and it only takes five minutes. After that, the animal is ready to go.
After the cells are harvested, a sample is placed in a nutrient-rich medium and transported to the Mzansi Meat labs, where they are isolated and grown in a culture medium, which is a special type of food that contains vitamins, salts, and proteins that allow them to develop and divide.
The company creates conditions similar to those found in a cow, but without the cow. Since the harvested cells are from a mammal, they are processed at a temperature of 37 degrees.
The cells will grow. Once they are big enough, a few additional spices and flavors will be added and the meat will be ready to cook.
According to Mzansi Meat Co., the method of generating cell-based meat is identical to that of brewing beer.
Mzansi Meat is ready to release the first beef burger in the region in a few months. Over the next few years, the brand wants to expand beyond burgers, introducing minced beef burgers, sausages, nuggets, steaks, and possibly poultry to the South African market.
The company hopes to receive approval from the South African government to sell its products to restaurants in the next 12 to 18 months. The company's target market is South Africa, but it is also looking at other parts of the continent.
Many people have shown an interest in trying the produced meat when it is commercially available. However, some buyers have expressed reservations. Customers have asked questions about the impact that lab-grown meat will have on people's health. Sure, it's better for the environment, but what about people's health?
Analysts believe that if this method of meat cultivation is to be pursued, the South African government must develop clear laws and procedures that can be legislated to ensure that all safety concerns are addressed.