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Tender Food awarded NSF grant for plant-based meats enhanced with cultured animal cells

December 15, 2023

Tender Food has announced that it has been awarded the highly competitive Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II grant by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The US$997,986 two-year grant underscores the significance of Tender Food’s innovative, plant-based, whole cuts of meat, and provides critical funding to explore the enhancement of these products by adding cultured animal cells.

“Creating delicious and affordable alternative meats is critical to our fight against climate change, but we need better tools to make that happen," said Dr Christophe Chantre, Co-Founder & CEO of Tender Food. "We're grateful for NSF's support in helping us develop these groundbreaking food technologies."

At the heart of this project is the ambition to provide ethical and sustainable meat alternatives that are nutritious and taste great. To do this, Tender transforms plant protein into fibers that mimic real meat muscle fibers. In contrast to other plant-based products that imitate ground, processed meat like sausages and burger patties, Tender’s products boast textures and cooking properties that are indistinguishable from animal meat. Based on innovations developed at Harvard University and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Tender’s technology enables the creation of whole muscle cut products (e.g. chicken breasts, pulled pork, and steaks) that look, taste, and feel like the real thing.

In the first phase of this NSF SBIR project, Tender discovered ways to add cultured animal cells to its plant-based meat products. In this second project phase, Tender will collaborate with the Kaplan Lab at Tufts University and the Tufts University Center for Cellular Agriculture (TUCCA) to broaden the number of animal species and systematically evaluate the benefits of adding animal cells to plant-based products. This work will determine if cultured cells improve the products’ flavor, aroma, and nutrition, and thereby inform the commercialization potential of these blended products.

“We’re excited for this opportunity to collaborate with the Tufts University Center for Cellular Agriculture, to explore the emerging field of cellular agriculture, and to find out if cultured animal cells can improve plant-based meats,” added Dr Luke MacQueen, Co-Founder & CSO of Tender Food.

If you have any questions or would like to get in touch with us, please email info@futureofproteinproduction.com

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