Cargill, Branson and Gates Invest In Lab Meat Startup
(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Livestock is one of the main causes of climate change, accounting for 18 percent of all emissions, according to a 2006 UN report. This data has prompted masses of people to go vegetarian and vegan, and has also spawned an innovative idea: lab meat, that is, meat that is cultured in a lab, requiring no feedlots and, above all, no slaughterhouses.
A startup called Memphis Meats has announced a $17 million Series A fundraising round, bringing investments in the company up to $22 million to date. One of the investors listed includes Cargill, a traditional agribusiness corporation whose interest in the startup seems to signal a paradigm shift.
This impression is reinforced by the presence of other heavyweight names listed as investors, including Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and a string of other companies, among them some research institutions.
Memphis Meats uses cell culture technology to grow meat from living animal tissue in stainless-steel cultivator tanks by feeding oxygen, sugar, and other nutrients to living animal cells so they grow skeletal muscle, a process that takes three to six weeks. It has no commercial product to show yet, but has produced beef, chicken, and duck from animal cells.
It claims its process uses only about one percent of the land and 10 percent of the water needed in standard livestock operations, giving it a massive environmental advantage over current practices.
The new round of funding will be used to further develop the process, scale it up and hire staff. One of the obstacles to mass commercialization is the cost of production, which is also one of the areas it will tackle with the new funds.
Fortune magazine remarked that Cargill's name indicates that the meat sector is eyeing up the burgeoning alternative meat market, unlike the dairy industry that has ignored the rise of plant milk. It also cites Tyson for having invested in a plant-based meat company called Beyond Meat.
Although many people may reject the idea of cultured meat and vegans will stick to plant-based food types, replacing current livestock with cultured meat could have a far-reaching, positive impact on the planet’s and animals’ welfare.
Image credit: Memphis Meats