HECK Jamie Keeble

Source: Heck 

Heck’s Jamie Keeble believes cultured meat could overtake plant-based meat alternatives

Heck sausages made from lab-grown meat could soon be on supermarket shelves after the supplier confirmed it was in talks with British cultured meat startup Ivy Farm Technologies over a potential partnership.

Talks on a co-developed range of cultured meat products were at an “early stage”, said Heck co-founder Jamie Keeble, who also cautioned it may take up to five years to sufficiently ramp up production to make such a branded range viable.

Ivy Farm’s product, meanwhile, is yet to be given regulatory approval by the FSA. However, Keeble stressed cultured meat could eventually overtake plant-based food as the main alternative to livestock-based meat, and it offered Heck an opportunity to be at the forefront of the creation of a “new era” of food production in the UK.

The Ivy Farm business was originally spun out of research by scientists at Oxford University in 2019, before officially launching in May of this year when it announced plans to bring a range of lab-grown meat products on to the market by 2023. It has so far raised £16.5m in funding and is due to open a new manufacturing facility next year.

The proposed tie-up was the latest example of Heck seeking growth from the shift towards flexitarian and so-called climatarian diets – where shoppers made purchases based on low-carbon and ethical values, Keeble said. It also follows significant investment in its plant-based range in recent years.

“We are always looking to the future of farming and there are some really exciting developments in cultivated meat, that delivers in terms of food security and sustainability,” he said. “Whilst it’s some way off from being available on supermarket shelves − and we are very much championing our existing farmer supply chain − there are some fantastic opportunities about future solutions to feeding the nation.”

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Ivy Farm CEO Rich Dillon added the business was “looking forward to working with Heck to create a delicious, highly sustainable range of products”.

It comes as Heck is preparing to break ground on a new £3.5m factory expansion at its North Yorkshire base in January, which will consolidate production from two plants into one, while also allowing it to bring its cooked meats operation on-site. Construction work is due to be completed by next September.

The brand will also launch carbon footprint labelling on its packaging in the new year, working with sustainability organisation Climate Cloud, a platform Heck said allowed food brands “to calculate, understand, share and improve their climate footprint”.

Labelling will initially be published on its chicken and pork ranges, before rolling out to its entire range over the next six months. The move follows the launch of a rival scheme run by not-for-profit Foundation Earth earlier this year.

“We want to give our customers complete transparency when it comes to eating for the environment” Keeble said.

“We know that there are many aspects involved in reducing climate and carbon footprint but we hope that by taking this first step and providing carbon labelling, those buying our products will be able to make a more informed choice at the supermarket shelves, and perhaps mix and match their meals, swapping out pork for a pack of chicken or vegan.” 

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