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Brazil's JBS starts building lab-grown meat factory in Spain

June 7, 2023

Brazilian meatpacker, JBS, has said this week that its subsidiary, BioTech Foods, has started construction works on its first commercial-scale plant to produce lab-grown meat in Spain, which is set to be completed by mid-2024.

The factory should produce more than 1,000 metric tons of cultivated meat per year, JBS said, adding it could expand its capacity to 4,000 metric tons per year in the medium term. The investment is around €30 million for a new 11,000m2 plant in Eskusaitzeta, the industrial area in Donostia, where all the company’s activity will be transferred. The plant will house both the process equipment for the production of cultivated meat, as well as the R&D part of the company. This department will be especially relevant, with expert professional profiles in biology, biochemistry and biotechnology. Likewise, the production part of the plant will have personnel specialized in process engineering, production, and specialized training in cell cultures. To do this, BioTech Foods plans to increase the workforce considerably, up to 150 employees in an average period of time.

“This new plant will allow us to increase production capacity to face the company’s next phase of expansion," commented Íñigo Charola, CEO of BioTech Foods, back in January 2023. "Without a doubt, this will be a very important milestone for us, as it will mean a great step in the development of our technology and will allow us to take the definitive leap with the release of the product on the market. We believe that this new plant will give us a significant competitive advantage in this emerging market, in addition to facilitating the progressive increase in production capacity, something that will allow us to respond to both current and future market needs globally."

He further added that, "this market is expected to experience tremendous growth in the next decade, with sources indicating that by 2032 12% of the protein consumed in the world will come from this type of more balanced food production system".

Currently, one of the great challenges for cultured meat is production in adequate volume and cost. The new BioTech Foods plant will allow the establishment of a highly efficient cultured meat production line to respond to both this challenge and the global need for a more balanced food production system that provides sustainability benefits.

The food-tech sector has consolidated over the past year or so as a lever of the global food industry. Thus, the food-tech ecosystem in Spain, which includes the production of alternative proteins such as cultured meat, is the fifth position in terms of the highest investment in Europe, public and private, after Germany, the UK, France and the Netherlands, according to the report, Foodtech in Spain: Moving the Spanish Food System Forward by ICEX. The same study indicates that Spanish startups tripled their investment in 2021 (€695 million) compared to the previous year.

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