If the plans of the Brazilian food giant JBS go ahead, Basque gastronomy will soon be known for something more than just marmitako, pil pil cod or txangurro. His name will become associated with lab-grown beef. That’s right. What the multinational wants to create in Gipuzkoa is the largest plant in the world dedicated to this type of food, capable of producing up to 4,000 metric tons of beef each year in the medium term.
They are not desires, nor intentions. The project has already started.
A cultured meat macroplant? Exact. JBS, a giant in the sector, considered the largest producer of beef on the planet, has set its sights on San Sebastián to build a macro-plant dedicated to the production of laboratory-grown protein. And not just anyone. He wants to promote the largest factory of its kind, an installation that will be built on a 20,000 m2 piece of land, will create 150 jobs and will cost 41 million dollars, about 38 million dollars.
Do we know anything else about the project? Yes. That it will be their first commercial-scale plant to produce lab-grown meat, that if all goes as planned it will be ready by mid-2024 and that the goal is to generate more than 1,000 metric tons of beef per year. That from the outset, of course, because in the medium term it wants to reach 4,000 metric tons. With such figures, the Brazilian firm claims that it will be the largest plant of its kind in the world.
Bloomberg goes a little further and details that the factory, which will be built in San Sebastián, will be owned by the cultured meat products company BioTech Foods, based in the Basque Country and in which JBS has a 51% stake. The operation that allowed the Brazilian multinational to take control of BioTech was closed in 2022 and already then it was announced that it aspired to promote a large factory with an investment of 41 million dollars.
What is that cultured meat thing? BioTech Foods, created in 2017 and which already operates a pilot plant in the San Sebastián Technology Park, claims to be one of the first biotechnological business projects focused on the development of cultured meat. The concept may be striking, but it has little new and starts from a simple approach, at least on paper: obtain pieces of meat without damaging cattle and in a profitable and sustainable way.
As? BioTech Foods summarizes it clearly on its website: muscle cells are extracted from animals and cultivated, subjected to basic temperatures and nutrients to end up obtaining “meat similar to minced meat, with which we can make delicious and nutritious Nuggets, hamburgers, sausages…” The Basques are not the only ones exploring this process. One of its great references is in fact the Israeli company Future Meat, which has been ensuring for some time that it can produce cultured meat on an industrial scale.
What is the OBJETIVE? What JBS aspires to is to diversify its offer and position itself in the market. On the table he has figures that encourage him to do so. Our World in Data estimates that global meat production has more than tripled over the last 50 years and the FAO forecasts that global demand for animal protein will increase significantly by 2050.
With this backdrop, JBS emphasizes the potential of meat from laboratories. “Given the challenges imposed on global supply chains, cultured protein has the potential to stabilize food security and global protein production,” stresses Íñigo Charola, from BioTech.
Cover image: JBS
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