Cultivated, Cell-Cultured & Biotechnology

Has Cultivated Meat for Pet Food Really Been Approved in EU? The Complicated Story of Bene Meat (and Others in the Space)

Two weeks ago, a press release was widely distributed by Czech startup Bene Meat Technologies, titled “Bene Meat Technologies is the first company in the world to be licensed to produce and sell cultured meat as dog and cat food”

The release stated, ” On 7.11.2023, the Czech startup Bene Meat Technologies (BMT) won the world championship to produce and sell cultured meat for PET FOOD needs. With the certification obtained from the European Feed Materials Register, it becomes the only entity in the world that can produce and sell this product for PET FOOD needs.[…] Bene Meat Technologies is thus the first entity in the world to be authorised to produce and sell cultured meat for PET FOOD.” 

This apparently groundbreaking news was covered by vegconomist here as well as a number of other publications including Reuters (note that the Reuters article has since been amended after the below information came to light). However, upon deeper investigation, there is in fact no authorisation system for animal feed.

In this piece, we describe the events having spoken with a number of parties including the EU, Cellular Agriculture Europe, and Bene Meat’s PR firm, and relate the situation to similar recent scenarios with other companies in the cell ag space. The intention is not to implicate Bene Meat (or others mentioned here) in any wrongdoing, simply to outline the events for our readers’ awareness and for the purpose of clarity.

bene meat technologies logo with dog
Image courtesy Bene Meat Technologies

On the 8th November 2023, Bene Meat distributed the press release containing the information as above. The vegconomist coverage, like other publications, was based on the information included in the press release as well as other factual information as to the company’s background and further context.

“Not an EU approval”

On 10th November, our newdesk received a request from Robert E. Jones, President, Cellular Agriculture Europe. Jones also happens to hold the role of VP, Global Public Affairs at Mosa Meat, a Netherlands pioneer in the cultivated meat field, and another company in the race to achieve approval / certification status.

In the memo, Jones urges that it is critical that the information about how such products are regulated is accurate so that consumers have faith in the risk assessment processes for novel foods. He stated:

“While it is exciting to see the potential of cultivated meat explored for multiple purposes in the food system, it is critical that accurate information is communicated about how new products are regulated. This was not an EU approval. The company in question has self-listed its cultivated cells in the EU feed materials register, which is managed by the industry-led EU Feed Chain Task Force, and they do not grant approvals or certificates. It is important to clarify that animal feed materials do not require pre-market approval and have nothing to do with the robust EU novel foods process our members will go through to bring delicious and sustainable cultivated meat and seafood to consumers.”

The points of debate provided by the association were threefold. In brief, firstly has Bene Meat received approval for its pet food? No, this is not an approval, said the association, Bene Meat has listed its cultivated cells of mammalian origin in the EU feed materials register. Any feed business operator (FBO) can list a new feed material on the feed material register if it is not already listed in the EU Catalogue of Feed Materials.

Secondly, that the Feed Material Register does not grant approvals or certification. Feed materials that are safe and compliant with Regulation (EC) 767/2009 can be used in pet food. There is no separate approval process for pet foods. And lastly, that feed materials do not require a pre-market approval.

The Cultivated B. facility
© The Cultivated B.

The Cultivated B.,

The communication mirrors almost exactly the scenario with Germany’s Cultivated B., which claimed in September to have received Europe’s first regulatory approval for cultivated meat (in this case for human consumption). Again this news appeared to have been groundbreaking and was covered rapidly by ours and other platforms. After publishing the news here (note that this piece was updated after many back and forths between various parties) we received an almost identical email from the same Robert E Jones, detailing that in fact, no approval had taken place, simply that a registration process had been initiated with the regulatory bodies.

Again, many platforms including vegconomist had closely followed the media release and later several were forced to amend and update their articles, some with exasperation such as this platform which had experienced the same situation as vegconomist.

bene meat technologies picture in the lab
© Bene Meat Technologies

“The word certification may not be the clearest”

On the 12th November, we received a response from Bene Meat’s PR firm, stating, “Your reasoning is correct and we sincerely appreciate the citations of specific laws and regulations.

“To confirm, Bene Meat is officially registered as an FBO producing cultured cells of mammalian origin in the Czech Republic and registered this new feed ingredient in the European Feed Materials Register (in a form of notification). Bene Meat has also extensively discussed the subject with the European Commission and Czech Authorities, and verified the application of classification 12 for cultured cells of mammalian origins and provided them with necessary documentation, description of the material and cultivation process.

“In this regard, Bene Meat has satisfied all legal requirements to bring the feed material based on cultured cells of mammalian origin to the market and is legally allowed to do so.

“The word certification used in the original headline might have not been the clearest choice and the word registration would be more representative of the situation and process. Bene Meat has already clarified this with Reuters and updated the initial press release.”

Meatly's logo in pink color letters.
© Meatly

Meatly makes the same claim?

Further to the above events, a few days after the publication of the Bene Meat story; Meatly of the UK (formerly Good Dog Food), announced its rebranding and that it is collaborating with the UK’s Food Standards Agency and the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs to obtain approval to commercialise its cultivated chicken for the pet food industry. The platform Pet Food Processing stated in its coverage, “According to Meatly, it will sell the first-ever cultivated pet food on the market.”

It is not clear as to whether Meatly is claiming to have obtained so-called approval. Though, what is evident that there is a press race for any company in the cultivated space to make the headlines, as seen with GOOD Meat and Upside Foods in the US. And it is clear that there is indeed widespread confusion as to the messaging around approvals and certifications in this novel food space.

Pet treats
© rodimovpavel- stock.adobe.com

What the EU says

We contacted the EU for verification, and finally received a response on 21st November. The EU department dealing with public health and food safety clarifies that pet food is classified as feed, for which there is no authorisation system, and as such no approval or licensing has been granted for cultivated pet meat since such a system does not exist.

The total number of publicly announced cultivated meat companies globally rose to 156 in 2022 and is said to be around 170 at present. Not all of them will succeed, as per this report which predicts a shakeout in the sector similar to that of plant-based meat, and perhaps only dozens will be left standing.

Clearly, as such, there will be countless companies in the cell ag space vying for the publicity around world firsts, European firsts, and the like. And since this is an emerging and novel space, the public and the media as well as the companies themselves are gaining understanding as developments emerge. We are in a new era of learning through regulatory progress that takes place in real-time. In the meantime, we expect several more claims to the golden finish line. For certain, this will not be the last time a company in such a novel sector will make a “world’s first” claim, when upon examination it may not be entirely accurate to state as such, as the race to succeed in achieving certification and claim the prized “first” title accelerates.




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