Cultivated innovation: meeting rising global protein demand

By Eduardo Noronha

- Last updated on GMT

Credit: Getty/nevodka
Credit: Getty/nevodka

Related tags alternative protein cultured meat cultivated meat

Following the announcement of its plans to create the world's largest cultivated beef facility, JBS' Eduardo Noronha talks about how the company will be helping drive cultured meat to market.

Global protein demand is set to rise by 135% by 2050 according to FAO estimates, requiring innovative approaches to efficiently scale protein production. Consumers are also showing increasing willingness to try new alternative protein products with recent UK Statista Global Consumer research1​ indicating that 20% of Gen Z respondents are open to trying cultured meat.

The market is expected to experience tremendous growth in the next decade, with sources indicating that it could represent 12% of all protein consumed in the world by 2032, providing food security as part of a more balanced food production system. As the world’s leading protein company, JBS is harnessing technology to help sustainably meet this evolving demand and provide healthy, tasty, affordable choices across our traditional and alt-protein portfolio to provide complementary offers to customers.

We recently announced construction of the world’s largest cultivated beef facility in San Sebastián, Spain​, further diversifying our meat portfolio and accelerating cell-based innovation. The BioTech Foods plant, which will cost around US$41 million, is expected to be operational by mid-2024 with an initial production capacity of over 1,000 metric tons per year, with capacity to increase to 4,000 metric tons per year in the future.

Market propelled innovation to scale production

Scale in this burgeoning industry is important. Recent regulatory approvals are rapidly pushing commercialisation forward, but cultivated meat still faces the challenge of achieving competitive production volumes and costs. That’s where we can play a key role through market propelled innovation to scale production in preparation for global availability.  The San Sebastián plant has been specifically designed in line with efficiency criteria to meet this challenge.

The plant has patent-owned bioreactors and critical high-tech used in the biotechnology industry that have been adapted to meet the cultivated protein production requirements. These enhancements in the technology offer a more sustainable food production method enabling a highly efficient cultivated meat production line scalable to meet commercial needs around the world.

The 20,000 sq. ft. facility will employ 150 people over the medium term and have space for an R&D department, which will play a major role in the company's day-to-day operations. Experts in biology, biochemistry and biotechnology will work alongside specialised manufacturing staff, with expertise in process engineering and production.

Coupling production with specialist training in cell culture, the new facility will provide a vibrant ecosystem for further collaboration and innovation as BioTech Foods gradually increases its production capacity.  The company has already identified key commercial markets in the future including Australia, Brazil, the European Union, Japan, Singapore and the United States.

Accelerating the pace in cultured protein

To further accelerate the pace of cultivated innovation, JBS is also investing $60 million in a new production plant and biotechnology and cultivated protein research and development centre in Brazil expected to be completed in the next two years.

Eduardo Noronha JBS
Eduardo Noronha

Led by a leading expert in chemical and food engineering and a postdoctoral fellow in the field of biomaterials, biodegradables and biomimetics, the JBS Biotech Innovation centre in Florianopolis, Santa Catarina will importantly combine academic, production and market expertise.

While some view cultivated protein as a threat to traditional agriculture, we consider the in-depth study of animal cells as a natural evolution, as we seek opportunities at the intersection of food and technology and play our part to revolutionise the food system. It will give us knowledge about the behaviour of animal protein, which should improve the performance of the meat that we already offer. 

It is an investment in new markets but also in what the company already has. Innovation and technical advances to make both alt-protein and traditional protein production more sustainable are required to stabilize global food security and meet growing protein demand.

Researchers are already working on the project in a temporary space at FIESC’s Institute of Industry. In all, the JBS Biotech Centre plans to hire at least 100 highly qualified researchers and has started a movement to repatriate postdocs who have not previously had opportunities in Brazil. The team already comprises professionals from Singapore, Portugal and the United States focused on developing a 100% national Brazilian technology from scratch.

JBS began looking at the alternative protein market just over four years ago, with the creation of a working group involving innovation, technology and marketing teams from around the world. Since then we have expanded our plant-based portfolio, are on track to build the world’s largest cultivated beef facility and have gained market leading plant-based alt-protein brand positions in the UK, Europe and Brazil.

Over the next four years, the JBS Biotech Innovation Centre in Brazil will continue to develop and lead this new market through advanced R&D for the application of cultivated protein, food technology, robotics and packaging development as we seek to continue to future proof our industry.


  1. According to the Statista Global Consumer Survey carried out between April 2022 and March 2023 in the United Kingdom

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