Japanese and U.S. firms team up to develop lab-grown wagyu product


U.S. food company Just Inc. and Japanese meat producer Toriyama Chikusan Shokuhin have forged a partnership for the development of lab-grown wagyu beef, with the aim of distributing their product globally.

It is believed to be the first time that a Japanese and U.S. company have tied up to develop cultured meat.

Under the deal, San Francisco-based Just will culture cells taken from Akagi brand wagyu cows raised at Toriyama Chikusan’s farm in Gunma Prefecture in order to create meat with the same quality as real Akagi beef.

Companies racing to develop lab-grown meat face common challenges such as improving the tastes and textures of their creations and reducing production costs.

It remains to be seen when Just and Toriyama Chikusan’s wagyu beef will go on sale, with officials from the U.S. firm saying that approval from regulatory authorities will be required, among other conditions.

Cultured meat is produced from the cells of animals in a laboratory setting. The method does not involve the slaughtering of animals and reduces the emissions of greenhouse gases.

Cultured meat is also said to be safer than conventional meat as antibiotics and growth hormones are not used during its production.

CoBank, a major U.S. lender for agribusiness companies, expects that dishes using cultured meat will begin to be served at restaurants and other outlets in several years as technical advances lead to lower prices.

Just Chief Executive Officer Josh Tetrick said that the company chose wagyu beef due to its taste, which is famous around the world.

Makoto Toriyama, president of Toriyama Chikusan, based in the Gunma Prefecture city of Shibukawa, stressed that cultured meat will help create a more sustainable meat production system at a time when demand for food continues to rise amid a growing world population.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Agriculture Department have agreed to jointly introduce regulations on lab-grown meat in anticipation of its expected commercialization.