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Mzansi Meat, the African continent’s first cellular agriculture startup, has announced that it has successfully produced a cultivated beef burger after two years of research and development. The burger will make its debut was made at a bespoke event net month.
“This is a huge milestone for South Africa and Africa,” co-founder and CFO Tasneem Karodia told Green Queen. “We are at the forefront of re-imagining food systems for the better. Our technology aims to bring cultivated meat cheaper and faster to consumers by leveraging our local expertise.”
The Capetown, South Africa-based company, which just completed the Brinc Food Tech accelerator, plans to scale production as soon as is reasonable in order to fulfil its mission of providing cruelty-free meat to as many African plates as possible. Plans include sausages, nuggets, steaks and chicken have all been slated for future development, with a focus on meat cuts and formats that are suited to traditionally African and South African dishes.
The case for African protein
Unlike in many parts of the Global North, Africa boasts a young and rapidly growing population, which means an ever increasing demand for quality protein. “The African population is expected to grow from 1.3 billion to 2.5 billion by 2050; the demand for meat is expected to rise with it,” says Brett Thompson, co-founder and CEO of Mzansi Meat. “This challenge presents an opportunity. An opportunity for a new source of protein, cultivated meat, to be part of the solution for food security on the continent.”
In October last year, NGO Credence Institute released findings from a study that claimed that 66 percent of South African consumers are “highly interested” in both plant-based and cultivated meat options. More than 1,080 participants, across a wide demographic, were surveyed, with two-thirds being open to new proteins. The study concluded that the “majority of South Africans are ready to embrace alternative protein”. Looking specifically at cultivated meat, 60 percent of those asked would be willing to try it and 53 percent were happy to pay for it.
“Cultivated meat is about to help reimagine the food system in Africa for good,” Thompson told Green Queen. The potential for bringing quality protein to more people on the continent is extremely exciting – and Mzansi is proud to lead it.”
Proudly South African
The company, which was founded in 2020, is committed to reimagine and reshaping existing food systems. Making meat in a sustainable and cruelty-free way allows traditional South African cooking techniques such as braais and shisa nyamas to be celebrated and protected wihout the negative carbon bill.
“We’ve always had a thing for meat. It’s easy to see why – meat goes with all occasions and brings us together to make moments more flavourful,” Thompson said. “It’s also a rich form of protein loved by cultures the world over. The journey from the source to our plate however, comes at a cost.”
Mzansi is a firmly rooted in the South African agricultural system. It has strong, local connections across it R&D process. Cells are harvested by veterinarians from animals at a local farm sanctuary before being taken to the company labs. Here, they are isolated, grown in a culture medium, and added to intricate scaffolds to generate a whole-cut product. The process cuts the requirement for exhaustive animal rearing and slaughter. Better still, there is a demonstrable contingent of consumers ready to try the end products.
A growing alt-protein industry
The African alternative protein ecosystem is small but growing with South Africa the locus for most of the non-plant based innovation. Mogale Meat is building an antelope cell biobank to create sustainable meat, Sea-Stematic is working on cultivated seafood and De Novo Dairy is pioneering precision-fermentation dairy.
Lead photo of co-founders Tasneem Karodia and Brett Thompson. All photos by Mzansi Meat Co.