Israeli Aleph Farms has received the first regulatory approval for producing and selling cultivated beef in the world, the company announced today (17 January).

The company said it received a “No Questions” letter for its cultivated beef product, Petit Steak, from Israel’s Ministry of Health in December, “following a rigorous review process”.

Having the green light will allow Aleph Farms to be the first producer and marketer of cultivated meat in Israel and the Middle East.

The company will work with Israel’s Ministry of Health to receive “specific directions for labelling and marketing” before the product can go on sale, Yifat Gavriel, Aleph Farms’ chief of regulatory affairs, quality assurance and product safety, said.

Launching the beef is also dependent on “the completion of [a] Good Manufacturing Practices inspection for our pilot production facility”, Aleph Farms said. The company has a 65,000 square foot plant in Rehovot.

Last March, the cellular agriculture group acquired a production facility in Modi’in, central Israel. Just Food has asked the company to confirm whether this facility will be used in the initial production stage.

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To begin with, the Petit Steak product will be launched in “select restaurants” through “exclusive tasting experiences”, following on in retail and food service.

These tastings are expected to commence “in 2024”, the company told Just Food.

The group has not disclosed which distributors with which it is expecting to partner.

The Petit Steak is made from “non-modified, non-immortalised” Black Angus cow cells, “as well as a plant protein matrix” of wheat and soy.

Aleph Farms co-founder and CEO Didier Toubia said: “With its global leadership in cellular agriculture, Israel continues to push for greater regional integration and economic collaboration, which will be crucial for stabilising the region.

“We believe that addressing joint challenges like food security is the best way to ensure the prosperity of the Middle East and other parts of the world that rely heavily on massive food imports, especially in Asia.

“On behalf of our entire team, I would like to thank the Ministry of Health, the Israel Innovation Authority and all the other involved government agencies for their commitment to advance the first cultivated beef product in the world. Now more than ever, Aleph Farms remains committed to making the world a better place.”

The announcement makes Aleph Farms the third company worldwide to have received regulatory approval for cultivated meat. In 2020, Eat Just received the green light for its Good Meat subsidiary to sell cultivated chicken in Singapore.

Eat Just and another US-based business, Upside Foods, secured approval to sell their cultivated chicken in the US last year.

Israel is home to a number of companies working in cultivated meat, including Future Meat Technologies and SuperMeat.

Commenting on the development of the sector in the country, Alla Voldman, vice president of strategy and policy at The Good Food Institute in Israel, said: “This achievement underscores the unwavering support in the Israeli alternative protein sector, which stands out globally. Three out of the first eight cultivated meat companies worldwide are Israeli. Fifteen per cent of global investments in the field are allocated to Israeli cultivated meat companies.

“We believe that the robust presence of companies working on cultivated meat, fermentation, and plant-based options, coupled with advanced academic research, entrepreneurship, industry, and unique consumer market, provide Israel with even more momentum to lead propel the field forward.”

The Good Food Institute is a US-based think tank advocating for the development of alternative proteins.

Aleph Farms has also applied for regulatory approval in Singapore, the US, Switzerland, and the UK.

Set up in 2017, Israel-based Aleph Farms has secured the backing of some major names in the industry.

A $105m Series B funding round in 2021 saw Brazilian meat giant BRF and Thai seafood heavyweight Thai Union Group among those backing the business. Its other investors have included private-equity firm L. Catterton and Cargill.