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  • Writer's picturePhoebe Fraser

UC Davis launches Integrative Center for Alternative Meat and Protein

The University of California, Davis is leading the establishment of a new Integrative Center for Alternative Meat and Protein (iCAMP).

The centre will work towards the large-scale commercialisation and technological advancement of alt-proteins, including cell-based meat, plant- and fungal-based foods, and innovative hybrids that combine conventional meat products with alternative proteins.

Bringing together leading researchers and academic institutions, industry professionals, advocacy groups and food innovators, the centre aims to make the global food system more sustainable.

On January 17, iCAMP will launch with an ‘Innovation Day’ at the UC Davis Robert Mondavi Center for Wine and Food Science. Scientists, programme leads and partners will share research and collaborations to advance food innovation in alt-meat and proteins.

Centre director David Block said: “Expansion of conventional animal agriculture is unlikely to be able to meet demand at a reasonable price. We have to come up with alternatives and create additional sustainable food sources.”

iCAMP will research ways to enhance consumer acceptance of and preference for alt-proteins. This deeper understanding will enable researchers and companies to develop products that are “highly desirable” to consumers of different backgrounds and interests, whether they are focused on taste, nutrition, shelf life and stability, cooking properties, cost or other factors.

Block also leads the UC Davis Cultivated Meat Consortium, an interdisciplinary group of scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and educators developing technologies to grow animal cells more efficiently for less cost. Block added that the consortium, the first academic group to receive federal funding for cell-based meat research, will now become an integral part of iCAMP.

UC Davis will collaborate with other research institutions and organisations, including UCLA, the University of Maryland Baltimore County, the USDA, Solano Community College and the Culinary Institute of America.

The initiative will also focus on workforce development, including classes and continuing education for students and professionals to help the industry grow. By actively fostering partnerships and encouraging the exchange of knowledge, the centre aims to catalyse the development of breakthrough technologies, driving down production costs, enhancing scalability, and ultimately making alt-proteins more accessible to consumers worldwide.

iCAMP researchers are also working with industry and regional developers to create a more complete ecosystem of business incubators, pilot facilities and contract manufacturers focused on food-tech. They are planning ways to connect with the public, from food policy seminars to introducing consumers to new meat products in on-campus dining halls, and more.

The California legislature provided $5 million for research into alt-proteins in 2022 at three University of California campuses — UC Davis, UCLA and UC Berkeley. Some of UC Davis’ $1.67 million share will be used to start the new Integrative Center for Alternative Meat and Protein.

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