Innocent Meat founder: “Meat should be made differently”

Innocent Meat founder
“Meat should be made differently”

Meat from the laboratory? Sounds like something out of a science fiction film, but in a few years it will be available in our supermarkets, says Laura Gertenbach. The co-founder of Innocent Meat is working in Rostock on a technology with which meat is produced from animal stem cells

Humanity would have to eat less meat. Most people know this message. If one day nine or ten billion people lived on the planet, we would eat twice as much meat as we do today. And we already have a problem today: Meat consumption causes large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, and it consumes space and water. So what to do

“I don’t think that you can reach people with prohibitions and waiver clauses,” said Laura Gertenbach, co-founder of the Rostock start-up Innocent Meat in the podcast “Zero Hour”. “Max Mustermann, who buys his meat every day at Lidl or Rewe, doesn’t want to go without it.” The numbers, said Gertenbach, are constant in Germany: around 60 kilos of meat per head per year. And anyway, if people in emerging countries have not yet gotten the taste for it, consumption will increase here.

That is why she is working with her co-founder Patrick Nonnenmacher on an alternative: She wants to produce meat artificially, from stem cells in the laboratory – known as cultured meat or “clean meat”. “I really want to get meat to be made differently,” she says. “The climate aspect is very relevant to me, and I want to continue eating meat in the future and not a pea substitute.”

The 36-year-old grew up in a farming family and founded Oberlecker, an online marketing platform for organic meat products, in 2017. For this she organized the slaughter herself and noticed how “time-consuming” and expensive it was.

“Clean Meat” is obtained from animal stem cells. “That happens in a bioreactor, in principle like with beer”, explained Gertenbach. These multiply in a cell culture. They are then nourished with a liquid, a type of food, so that they divide and grow into muscle and fat tissue. That is the big challenge, says Gertenbach, because that accounts for 90 percent of the costs. Your goal is to develop a product that is affordable, otherwise “it won’t end up in the supermarket”.

However, she does not see her company as a meat producer, but as a technology provider. It wants to provide producers or traders with the technology to be able to produce their own cultivated meat. “Our goal is not to send products to the supermarket, but to provide the food industry with technology based on the ‘plug & play’ principle,” said Gertenbach.

If everything goes according to plan, Innocent Meat wants to have the first demo systems in 2024 and start production from the end of 2025. The startup that has just moved to the Rostock University campus is the first of its kind in Germany. However, there is plenty of competition in the world, particularly in Israel and the United States. According to a report by the Good Food Institute, there are 76 companies worldwide working on artificial meat, with 23 added last year alone. These include the Israeli startup SuperMeat as well as Aleph Farms – a manufacturer of laboratory steaks – and Future Meat.

Listen in the new episode of “The Zero Hour”:

  • How Gertenbach’s parents – who are farmers – reacted to their idea
  • What your everyday life at Innocent Meat looks like
  • Why Innocent Meat has moved to the Rostock University campus

You can find all episodes directly at Audio Now, Apple or Spotify or via Google.

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