Israeli food-tech start-up Aleph Farms said it received regulatory approval in Israel to sell steak grown from cow cells in a process that effectively takes the animal itself out of the equation.
Cultivated meat, grown from animal cells in a lab or manufacturing plant, has been garnering interest globally as a way to sidestep the environmental impact of the meat industry and address concerns over animal welfare.
The health ministry's green light is a key development along the lengthy path to bringing the thin-cut beef steaks to market.
"This regulatory milestone, the first of its kind worldwide, reflects a comprehensive assessment of crucial factors, from toxicology and allergens to nutritional composition, microbiological safety, and chemical safety throughout the entire production process," said Ziva Hamama, food risk management department director at the health ministry.
She said there were talks with other companies as well to bring more products to market. Israel is a global leader in the sector, with groups also pioneering alternatives to traditional fish and chicken products.
Aleph Farms has raised around $140 million since its founding in 2017 and has actor Leonardo DiCaprio as an advisory board member.
A year ago, Israel's chief rabbinate gave the company its approval, having determined that the cultivated steaks are indeed kosher.
The company said it is following final instructions from the health ministry for consumer labelling for the product, and is obtaining a final inspection of its pilot production facility in central Israel.
Within a few months it hopes to start selling to restaurants, and eventually for food service and retail.
"Aleph’s regulatory team is working in similar fashion with authorities in numerous markets around the world in order to ensure compliance with respective safety requirements," said Yifat Gavriel, the company's chief of regulatory affairs, quality assurance and product safety.
Aleph Farms says it collects sample cells from a living animal and then grows more in a cultivator that mimics conditions in the animal's body. They are mixed with plant proteins from soy and wheat, but the product is different from popular plant-based alternatives that do not have animal origins.
In 2021, Thai Union announced that its corporate venture capital (CVC) fund has invested in Israel-based Aleph Farms’ $105-million Series B fundraising round.