Meat distributor to bring ‘world’s first’ cell-cultured wagyu beef to Europe via Orbillion Bio tie-up
US-based cultivated meat player Orbillion Bio has announced a partnership with European premium meats leader Luiten Food in the Netherlands, to bring cell-cultured meats to more than 35 countries in Europe.
“Together, we expect to sell cell-cultured Wagyu Beef by 2025,” Orbillion CEO Patricia Bubner tells FoodNavigator.
Routes to market
The partnership is designed to establish a clear path to market for Orbillion’s cell-cultured wagyu beef product, making it accessible through Luiten’s more than 1,200 distribution channels across food service, specialty retailers, and butchers.
Luiten Food is a member of Australia’s largest family-owned red meat processor and distributor, Thomas Foods International Group. This relationship also provides the opportunity to take Orbillion’s cell-cultured meat to a global market.
In Europe, Orbillion and Luiten will work together to develop a manufacturing capability to build upon Luiten’s existing food production assets.
“The partnership includes the development of shared manufacturing capabilities, and we are continuing to explore a range of production pathways,” Bubner explained.
“These developments, necessary to produce food products in Europe, will create a multitude of jobs across all levels in biomanufacturing, process development, food science, culinary, meat processing, and more.”
Heritage meats for quality and sustainability
The Silicon Valley start-up sets itself apart from the growing number of cell-based meat players by focusing on heritage breeds. Specifically, Orbillion is focusing on meats ranging from wagyu beef to bison, sheep, and deer – meats that ‘most people’ can’t access because they aren’t readily commercialised.
Orbillion claims to be the ‘only’ cell-cultured meat company ‘focused on quality throughout the full development process’ – from the heritage breeds its cells originate from to the final product.
“And with Luiten Food, we’ll be able to bring this new farm-to-table experience to Europe,” said Bubner. “Together, we’ll go beyond a scientific concept, to a tangible, delicious, and enjoyable meat that is more humane to animals, kinder to the planet, and has a more desirable and consistent nutrition profile.”
Luiten Food also prides itself on quality and sustainability. According to Managing Director Lennert Luiten, the meat importer and distributor has ‘been successful for more than 84 years’ because it focuses on ‘what’s ahead. “And now, that’s sustainable meat. That’s high-quality meat.”
Luiten continued: “We’re excited to bring our strengths in brokering the highest quality meats to a category that will be a big part of how we feed the future.”
Is Europe ready for cell-based meat?
Orbillion and Luiten Food see great potential in the cell-cultivated meat market. According to Barclays, the market for cell-based meat is paced to be a $450bn global industry by 2040.
But is Europe ready for cell-cultivated meat?
A key hurdle standing in their way is regulation. Just one regulatory agency globally, the Singapore Government Food Agency (SFA), has approved a cultivated meat product to date.
Under this new agreement, Orbillion and Luiten will co-manage the regulatory approval processes.
As to consumer appetite for lab-grown meat, Orbillion said its own research of more than 4,500 consumers across four countries indicates that half of consumers in the UK are interested in cell-cultured meat generally, and this figure jumps 20% when asked about its products specifically.
“More, we are expanding our own consumer research, and continue to track insights from third parties,” Bubner told this publication. “For instance, just [last week], GFI Europe shared new research that more than 50% of consumers in Spain, Italy, and Germany play to buy cell-cultured meat when it’s available.”
Orbillion and Luiten have not shared which markets in Europe it will first target, but ‘look forward to making that announcement soon’.
Beyond consumer interest, Orbillion said that European food producers and policymakers are seeking new approaches to food and meat production. They’re already looking to develop alternatives that are more resilient to a changing climate and enable greater food independence in the face of global supply chain instability, said Bubner.
“We see the restrictive Dutch policies reducing livestock production as a preview of what’s to come more broadly across the region. Thankfully, such adaptation is not new in Europe. For instance, the Netherlands has a deep history in farming and agriculture intensification and innovation given their limited land availability to produce cattle.
“At Orbillion, and with partners like Luiten, we see cell-cultured meat as the next step.”