A taste revolution in the plant-based meat industry could be on the horizon as Hoxton Farms, the UK’s first cultured fat startup, has announced a £2.7 million seed round. Combining cell biology and mathematical modelling to make cruelty-free and sustainable fat, the company aims to replace conventional vegetable fats used by plant-based producers.
Up and coming cultured fat companies like Hoxton Farms have identified a problem that has existed in plant-based meat for decades: finding effective, low-cost and sustainable replacements for traditional animal fat. Often described as the most important sensory ingredient in meat, fat defines how meat looks, cooks, and tastes. Existing meat alternatives contain plant oils as a substitute for animal fat, but these oils can have a negative environmental impact, with many questions currently being raised about their effects on human health.
Starting from just a few cells, Hoxton Farms grows purified animal fat in bioreactors, using proprietary computational models to reduce the cost. “The Covid-19 crisis has exposed the fragility of traditional meat supply chains and the risks they pose to human health and the environment. We wanted to bring together our skills to address a pressing problem: how to satisfy a growing demand for meat without compromising on health, sustainability or animal ethics,” explains Ed Steele, co-founder of Hoxton Farms.
Other players in the market include Belgian Peace of Meat, the B2B cultured fat supplier also developing a unique, proprietary, stem-cell-based technology to produce animal fats. Interestingly, Peace of Meat recently canvassed plant-based meat producers, with results showing that up to 68% of respondents would be likely or very likely to incorporate cultivated fat into their products. Meat-Tech 3D Ltd, a developer of industrial-scale cultivated meat production technologies based on advanced 3D bioprinting, has made an initial €1M investment into the company, as part of a planned full acquisition.
Dr Max Jamilly, Co-Founder of Hoxton Farms, said: “We want to bring back fat: it’s the single most important ingredient in the meat that we eat. The technology we’re developing will allow us to customise fat for any application – and we’re making it healthier too. Cultivated fat is the hero ingredient for meat alternatives, and it will solve a huge problem in this growing industry. We believe the future of meat alternatives will be a blend of plant-based protein and cultivated fat.”