The worldwide meat and dairy industries have started shifting product development towards more sustainable options as consumer interest veers into plant-based foods. From Tyson to Cargill, meat companies have noticed the plant-based trend and have worked to accommodate the rising vegan consumer base. Now, the world’s largest meat processor is looking into another sustainable option. JBS Foods just announced that it will invest $100 million into the cultured meat industry, signifying a shift inside of the global protein market.

JBS is an international conglomerate of animal-based meat and dairy processing facilities. The food giant processes beef, chicken, pork, and any associated by-products to sell to markets worldwide. The company is recorded to produce nearly $50 billion worth of animal-based products per year. By including sustainable investments, the food processing corporation recognizes a growing value in sustainable meat options.

Cultured meat – also known as cell-based, cultivated, or lab-grown meat – is a rising star in the sustainability market. Company’s worldwide have developed methods and models to reproduce animal products by using cellular agriculture or precision fermentation. The two methods use a sample size of animal cells to produce clean meat without slaughter. The animal-free meat industry also boasts its ability to reduce environmental damages and waste in the production process.

The cultured meat market is gaining worldwide influence due to its sharp rise in investments from both companies and governments. A recent report from the Good Food Institute found that cultured meat secured $366 million in 2020, predicting that this figure will only continue to rise. Companies such as GOOD Meat and UPSIDE Foods have paved the way for the industry, working with governments to gain regulatory approval. GOOD Meat is already available in Singapore, but countries like the US and Qatar have begun the first steps of regulatory approval.

“I was most excited to see the influx of funding from governments signaling a federal commitment to cultured meat,” Head of External Innovation and Partnerships at Merck KGaA Lavanya Anandan said in the GFI report. “This has fueled the rise of several new collaborative public-private research consortia concepts across the globe ... aiming to comprehensively address a wide array of topics from economics to consumer acceptance. Together these developments will propel fundamental research and accelerate market entry and adoption.”

JBS’ cultured meat investment started when the meat giant acquired the Spanish cultured meat company BioTech Foods. The investment marked the first time the giant processing corporation entered the market. The company also announced that $41 million of its total investment will be dedicated to building a production facility in Spain, aiming to expand its production and distribution capabilities. The company will also construct its inaugural Center for Research and Development in Biotechnology and Cultuived Protein in Brazil.

"The acquisition marks the company's entry into the cultivated protein market," the company said in a filing.

The multinational company entered the sustainability market when it launched its plant-based food brand called Planterra, developing vegan burgers, grounds, and meatballs. The company also acquired the vegan meat brand Vivera Foods earlier this year. The company plans to continue moving into the plant-based and sustainable food market as consumer interest deviates away from animal-based products.

“This acquisition is an important step to strengthen our global plant-based protein platform,” Gilberto Tomazoni, global CEO of JBS commented. “Vivera will give JBS a stronghold in the plant-based sector, with technological knowledge and capacity for innovation.”

The popularity of cultivated meat is sweeping across companies, countries, and even Hollywood. Stars like Leonardo DiCaprio and Ashton Kutcher recently entered into the cultivated meat space, promoting a sustainable form of food production. The overall shift showcases the world’s increased awareness of the dangers of the animal agriculture industry, for the environment and individual health.

​​To emphasize this point, a recent report from CE Delft found that cultivated beef production could reduce air pollution by 93 percent and climate impact by 92 percent. The study continued by stating that as compared to current meat production, cultivated meat would waste 78 percent less water and use 95 percent less land.

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