Czech startup presents unique lab-grown meat prototype

Brno-based startup Mewery has recently had a big breakthrough – it created the first prototype of cultivated meat in the region of Central and Eastern Europe. The company says its prototype has nutritional benefits and that the method to produce it is cost-saving and unique among companies working in this field.

It looks just like a regular fried meatball. But this meatball wasn’t created from the mashed-up remains of an animal – it was grown in a lab.

Roman Lauš with his team | Photo: Mewery

Leading the field in cultivated meat in this part of Europe is the Brno startup Mewery, which recently presented its debut prototype to the world. In fact, CEO and founder Roman Lauš says that with the prototype, his company has achieved several firsts.

“It is the first prototype of cultivated meat in Central and Eastern Europe and it is also unique in the world, because it combines pork cells and microalgae cells. It’s 100% cell-based and there are no other supplements or proteins used. Normally in other kinds of prototypes you use soya, pea or other supplements, but this consists only of cells, either porcine (pig) cells, which make up 75%, or microalgae cells, which make up the remaining 25%. This has been the big milestone we have been trying to achieve for more than half a year.”

Photo: Mewery

The next stage was of course the all-important taste test. Cultivated meat is meant to target consumers who do eat meat and would only switch to this more ethical and environmentally-friendly product if the look, texture and taste was indistinguishable from traditional meat. For the taste test, the piece was fried in oil with no additional salt or flavourings, so that its pure taste could be discerned. Lauš says the taste is something the company will continue to build on as it develops its product, but the results of the first prototype were promising.

“It basically tastes like a pork-meat patty. Of course it was not huge, but it was big enough to talk about taste and texture and how it looked. This is what you can see in the pictures.”

Photo: Mewery

There are a couple of things that make Mewery’s prototype stand out from other players on the market. First of all, the company focuses on pork, while most competitors are working on beef or poultry. Secondly, Mewery’s technique uses a unique microalgae-based cultivating medium, which means they don’t have to use FBS (Fetal Bovine Serum).

FBS is usually required to make cell cultures start growing, but it is a by-product of the meat industry and questions have been raised about the ethics of its use for cultivated meat. That is part of the reason why Lauš is so proud of his company’s microalgae-based cultivating medium.

Photo: Mewery

“We have a very unique process. We have filed a patent for the whole process from isolation to production. I cannot really go into details but in terms of isolation, we really use the waste products from farmers and there is no harm done to any animal.”

Mewery hopes to have the finished product ready to bring to market within two years. However, this depends partly on whether the corresponding legislation will be able to catch up fast enough. Preparedness for cultivated meat varies widely across countries and continents. The first authorisation for marketing cultivated meat products appeared in Singapore in 2020, while cell-based food products are not marketed in the EU at present.