New Age Meats: “There’s a Reason We’re Called New Age Meats. The Definition of Meat is Changing.”

Brian Spears, New Age Meats
Brian Spears © New Age Meats
 
New Age Meats is a cultivated meat company working to develop delicious proteins free from animal slaughter, aiming to bring its first product, a pork sausage, to market soon.  Based in San Francisco, the company’s tagline is “Meat without slaughter” – a sentiment that we can all get on board with, whether vegan or not.

Last month the company raised $2M in seed extension to further its cause and further expand its Food Science department, following an initial seed round of $2.7 million in January this year. A graduate of IndieBio’s accelerator program, the startup develops technology to make meat from animal cells by using automation and data science in stem cell research and bioreactor optimization.
 
We were fascinated to speak with New Age Meats CEO Brian Spears.

 

You have created a ‘pork’ sausage already, what other products are you currently working on?
One of the reasons we chose pork is that it’s the most commonly consumed animal in the world. We’re working on other pork products for both Western and Asian markets. We’ve also done work with other animals. 
What differentiates New Age Meats from other cell-based meat companies?
Quite a bit, we don’t think making cells at a competitive price and high volume is the only big challenge. We understand that the definition of meat is changing, and our mission is not to hit consumer perception where it is today, but where it’s going. This leads into the next question…   
New Age Meats Sausages
©New Age Meats

We understand that your product development is focused on “interrogating the science of meat”, to understand why it tastes and feels the way it does, can you tell us more about that?
How do cells make the sensory characteristics that we care about? To understand that, we start with the human perception of meat. This allows us to see the biomarkers that we can then have the cells make more efficiently. 

Why is cellbased meat important right now and how much potential to disrupt animal agriculture do you believe it offers as a segment?
We’re pretty open that we make blended products of cultivated and plant based meat, but the real question is that of demand and our planet’s ability to supply the food required to feed ourselves. The UNFAO predicts that we will need to grow our food supply by 70% by 2050, a growth rate which outpaces our land and resource availability. We’re not seeking disruption so much as augmentation to meet that increased demand. 

What do you envisage the protein market will look like in the future?
There’s a reason we’re called New Age Meats. The definition of meat is changing. We’re not limited to meat coming from the carcass of an animal. That’s like a horse and buggy. We’re a car. We have complete control over our process, which allows us to craft meat better than anything we currently consume. 

©New Age Meats

We covered a report from the GAO back in May that stated that cell-based meat is stuck in the Research and Development stage, what are your thoughts on this?
The GAO performs invaluable services, but innovation is not one of them. Thinking that the pathway forward is to convert existing technologies in industries like biopharma and cellular therapeutics leads one to believe that the industry has a long way to go. Creating new pathways through whitespace is what startups do. 

New Age Meats has secured $5M in funding to date; investors seem keen to be a part of this fledgling industry despite concerns noted from the GAO, will you be announcing further funding rounds? Absolutely. Alternative proteins comprise less than half a percent of the massive worldwide meat market. We’ll never make a dent in that market if we grow slowly. We make the future of meat, and investors are eager to join us in that journey. 

Can we expect to see your ‘pork’ sausage in the market in the near future? What challenges do you face with this?
Yes! We’re continually dropping the cost and ramping up production. Here in the US, regulators are moving quickly to allow us to come to market, and that’s mirrored by other countries, notably in Asia. 

Where do you see New Age Meats in the next five years?
Pork products are where we start. In the next five years, we’ll have multiple types of meat products in different geographies and distribution channels.