With most new products, there are often questions about regulation, ingredients, safety, and other things.
Bene Meat (BMT) would like to be transparent with customers, authorities, manufacturers, and other entities. It is our priority is to sell a completely safe raw material that will bring joy to cat and dog owners who would like to give their pets high quality protein that doesn’t necessitate having to kill another animal, and thanks to which we, as humanity, will be closer to sustainable development.
Therefore, we would like to address questions raised in connection with the fact that Bene Meat became first in the world to meet all the legislative requirements, to produce and sell cultured cells to animal feed manufacturers.
1) On 7.11.2023, the Bene Meat’s product “Cultured cells of mammalian origin” was listed in the European Feed Materials Register. There are objections that it’s not an official registration, because the records in Feed Register are created by applicants, in this case by Bene Meat. Can BMT produce and sell cultured cells in the EU as a pet food ingredient?
Yes, BMT has met all the legislative requirements, and can legally manufacture and sell cultured cells for pet food in the EU. Food and feed safety falls under the so-called “shared competence” of the EU and the member states. The Feed Materials Register has the character of an EU-wide register of approved feed materials, serves as an information source for producers and consumers from all EU countries, and is an important tool implementing the principle of transparency, as it follows from the Treaty on the European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Companies registering products in the Feed Materials Register must meet a number of requirements regarding the safety of product production before they could submit their registration.
2) Is the Bene Meat’s product safe, and has any authority checked its safety?
Yes, BMT’s “cultured cells of mammalian origin”, which is registered in the Feed Materials Register, is safe. The product manufacturing process has been subject to assessment by the relevant national authority, and as such has met all of the requirements. The fact that the actual act of registration in the Feed Materials Register is not carried out by the authority itself, but by the manufacturer, certainly doesn’t mean that the conditions of production and the nature of the product are not under the control of the relevant authorities. It’s the same as when you ceremoniously hang the name of your new restaurant above the entrance, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have the proper permits to operate.
In this context, it’s necessary to remind people that the safety of products placed on the market is the primary interest of BMT as a manufacturer and is one of the key principles of the BMT code of ethics. BMT doesn’t perceive the authorities and institutions overseeing safety (whether at the level of a member state or the EU) as rivals that need to be conquered, but as partners with whom it has a common interest – to eliminate all the real existing risks for consumers, or in this case, for their pets. The fact that several of the team members tested it on their pets, who liked it, and didn’t suffer any problems at all, could perhaps testify to the fact that the product is safe. And, of course, it works on long-term studies and tests that go beyond the mandatory ones, so that they have even more confidence that the raw materials are harmless.
3) Why are cultured cells registered as a “product of fermentation”, not as an “animal by-product” that one might associate with meat?
It’s important to note that there is a significant difference between animal by-products (ABPs) and cultured cells when assessing safety.
When assessing the safety of ABPs, three aspects are of primary interest:
a) how the animal was fed and how it lived before its slaughter,
b) whether the animal was healthy when slaughtered,
c) how the parts of its body were treated in terms of maintaining hygiene standards after slaughter.
Obviously, these aspects are not applicable to cell cultivation. Cultured cells have a significantly different position, in terms of safety assessment. What is essential for them is primarily compliance (and control) with the risk-free standard of cultivation in bioreactors, and the composition of the cultivation medium from which they draw nutrients. In this, the cultured cells are much closer to the microorganisms in which these aspects are observed, and logically their safety for consumption is assessed as if they were microorganisms. This aspect was also consulted on with the European Commission, which on 27.1.2023 confirmed the correctness of our thinking and procedure.
It’s great that even the European Union has a world leading position on the journey to greater sustainability.
4) Each approval of a cultured product is seen as a major event. One cannot help but notice a certain rivalry between manufacturers who are competing to have their product approved first. Bene Meat is the first company in the world that can produce and sell a cultured product for pet food. Was it the intention to be first?
Being first in the world at almost anything is nice, of course, but it wasn’t the primary goal. We aren’t looking for investors, we’re starting a normal business. Our research and development has progressed to the manufacturing and upscaling stage, where we bring the product to market. There are no final products in stores yet, but we have started palatability testing, and are sending out samples to partners so that we can fine-tune the recipes. And we can’t do that without meeting the legislative requirements. From a commercial point of view, on the other hand, publicity is more of a drawback. Thanks to the publicity, pet food manufacturers have a chance to learn about the new available raw materials, but at the same time, we’re being watched more closely by the competition, who will certainly react very quickly, and we therefore have to try harder.
However, this is certainly great news for consumers. If all goes well, then next year, the first cultured products for cats and dogs will be available for normal purchase. Everyone who wants their pet to be fed without another animal having to die, to be environmentally friendly, and with controlled health, will finally have the option.
5) You consistently use the term “cultured cells” and not “cultivated meat” or “cultured meat”, as is commonly used, why?
In professional discussions, we always and systematically use the term “cultured cells”, which correctly describes our product. At the same time, we understand that the lay public gravitates towards the term “meat”, because it’s a familiar and imaginable term associated with proteins of animal origin. The reason is our effort to use the most accurate terminology. “Meat” as such is a widely used term, but there is no statutory definition of meat in either the EU or the US. It’s therefore not clear when it can be used. This is perhaps why some manufacturers use the term.
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