Mission Barns tests cell-cultured pork fat with leading pork producer; gears up for hybrid plant/animal bacon tasting

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags cell-cultured meat cell-based meat hybrid Mission Barns

Berkeley-based startup Mission Barns – which is carving a niche in the nascent cell-cultured meat industry by focusing on animal fat – is in talks with leading food companies about incorporating animal fat grown in bioreactors into a range of hybrid meats combining animal- and plant-based components.

The company, which is planning to run curbside taste tests of its ‘Mission Bacon’ combining cell-cultured pork fat and plant-based proteins outside restaurants in San Francisco and Oakland this month, can make cell-cultured fat from multiple species on its platform, but is focusing on pork fat for its first tasting​.*

“The fat really drives the sensory experience you get when you bite into a piece of bacon and delivers that distinct meaty pork flavor, whereas the plant-base provides texture​,” said Eitan Fischer, who co-founded Mission Barns​ in 2018 with David Bowman, a colleague at Eat JUST Inc.

“We do think there’s a lot of potential for these types of ​[hybrid] products for two reasons,” ​he told FoodNavigator-USA.

“One, fat is cheaper and more scalable to produce​ [from animal cells in a bioreactor] than muscle, and two, plant-derived components are also low cost, so we can bring these products to market much sooner.”

‘Even a small amount of fat can transform the function, flavor, and mouthfeel of an otherwise animal-free product’

He added: “In addition to products like bacon, our cultivated animal fat can be used in other applications ranging from food products to high-end cosmetics, with even a small amount of fat able to transform the function, flavor, and mouthfeel of an otherwise animal-free product.

“We are currently testing new products in development together with other food companies including one of the largest pork producers in the world," ​added Fischer, who would not disclose how much money Mission Barns has raised but says it’s “quitea lot more​” than the $3.5m listed in Crunchbase.

"So we’re talking about meat alternatives, but also non-meat products that can also benefit from having our cultivated fat in it.” 

The business model

Asked about the business model, he said: “We’re looking for the right partner for each major application to bring products to market, so we’d be licensing out technology to the partnership to commercialize these products together.”

The number of people working at Mission Barns is now "in the teens," ​said Fischer: “We had a breakthrough earlier this year so the big news is that we’ve figured out how to scale this up to the tons scale, and every month we’ve been making this in larger and larger cultivator systems.

"We've also developed an in-house, proprietary media recipe that enables us to grow these cells and fatten them up so they become very fatty very quickly."

*​The tasting is free, but participants will be asked to provide detailed feedback on Mission Bacon.

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