Just as Whole Foods shareholders and the Federal Trade Commission gave the green light to Amazon’s $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods, news broke that a number of high-profile investors—including billionaires Bill Gates and Richard Branson—have decided to pour their money into a very different sort of food venture: Memphis Meats, a San Francisco-based company that is developing meat from stem cells.
The start-up is part of a growing “clean meat” movement intended to produce a variety of sustainable, lab-grown meat products using animal cells, without having to actually feed or slaughter any animals in the process.
Gates and Branson, along with high-profile backers like Elon Musk’s brother, Kimbal Musk, and Cruise co-founder Kyle Vogt, have poured $17 million into the company.
Similar to other lab-grown meat start-ups that have sprung up in recent years, Memphis Meats intends to create beef, duck, and chicken that can be made with only about 1 percent of the land and 10 percent of the water needed to raise traditional animals for slaughter. Memphis Meats has already publicly released hamburgers, meatballs, and duck in its lab kitchen.
Memphis Meats is competing in an increasingly crowded and well-funded space: Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are both making plant-based meat options, and Hampton Creek, of egg-free mayo fame, is also making lab-grown meat that it wants to sell in Walmart. The biggest setback these companies will face is how expensive the process of growing meat artificially can be.
Four years after the first burger made from lab-grown cells was served by a company called Mosa Meat in the Netherlands (its $330,000 price tag was covered by Google C.E.O. Sergey Brin), lab-grown meat is still expensive to produce. At $2,400 a pound, Memphis Meats will have to find a way to cut costs while it scales its production.
Via Vanity Fair