We cover a isht ton of disruptive technologies here at Nanalyze so that our readers understand what’s out there that may be worth investing in as opportunities present themselves. The hope is that we learn something cool and make a few bucks in the process. It also doesn’t hurt that much of the emerging tech may just help save the planet or at least help prevent us from screwing it up any further. One oft-quoted stat in that regard is that by mid-century we’ll have about 10 billion people crawling all over this blue-and-green marble in the cosmos. That’s a lot of mouths to feed, with China alone projected to have a middle class larger than any nation outside of India and the People’s Republic. And they’ll want to eat meat, and consume other resources, with all of that new-found wealth. In the past, we’ve introduced you to water technology startups that will help slack the thirst for H20. Agricultural technology, or agtech, has also been a popular topic on feeding the future, with articles here, here and here. Today we’re going to chew over the idea of subsisting on lab-grown meat.
You might already be familiar with the subject of growing meat from animal cells, something we highlighted briefly with the startup Memphis Meats in our burger of the future article earlier this year. We had also wondered at the possibility of producing leather from animal cells by a biotechnology startup called Modern Meadow. In fact, there are at least seven companies trying to commercialize lab-grown beef, chicken and seafood cultured from animal cells. The keyword here is “trying,” as the current prices are still out of range even for the regular three-star Michelin diner. For example, it costs Memphis Meats about $6,000 per pound for its test tube chicken. That represents progress: Back in 2013, Mosa Meats in the Netherlands debuted a rather dried-out beef patty at $330,000.
These startups, most taking their cues from the regenerative biotech medical industry, claim their products will represent a better alternative to industrial livestock, which accounts for about 14.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Lab-grown meat, often referred to as clean meat, may also be healthier, without antibiotics and diseases that currently plague our conventional food system. And then there’s the ethical angle: Lab-grown meat means we’ll be sending fewer animals to the slaughterhouse. Bacon lovers, in particular, take note that swine are at least as smart as man’s best friend.
Companies like Cargill are certainly taking notes—and investing money. Cargill joined billionaire all-stars like Richard Branson and Bill Gates in a recent $17 million Series A to Memphis Meats. Lab-grown meat got an even bigger vote of confidence recently when China announced it would sign a $300 million deal to purchase lab-grown meat from three Israeli biotech companies. Let’s get a taste of what these startups in lab-grown meat are doing today.
100 Percent Lab-Grown Meat … Sort of
A few months after we first highlighted San Francisco-based Memphis Meats, the startup raised $17 million in a Series A, bringing total funding to $22 million. In addition to the investors we’ve already mentioned, backers to Memphis Meats include Elon Musk’s younger brother, Kimbal Musk, who has specialized in investing in food startups with an ethical mission. IndieBio and New Crop Capital, probably the two most well-known VC funds and accelerators for food biotech startups, have also participated in multiple rounds. In 2016, the company premiered its first meatball. In March of this year, it added chicken and duck to the menu. Founded in 2015, Memphis Meats starts with stem cells from the animals and grows muscle tissues in thin layers inside of bioreactors. It may not sound that appetizing but the company has gotten pretty good reviews.
This year it also made a technical breakthrough in how it “nurtures” the meat. Currently, most lab-grown meat relies on fetal bovine serum, an expensive but nutrient-rich extract from the blood of unborn calves. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Memphis Meats has developed a kill-free feed and that the company hopes to have a competitively priced product on store shelves in five years....MORE
One of the pioneers of lab-grown meat, MosaMeat in the Netherlands made history in 2013 with its six-figure beef patty. Since then, the company has reportedly brought the price down to $11 per burger. The stem cells come from organic cows, with cells from a single cow capable of producing 175 million quarter-pounders. You would need about 440,000 bovines to produce a similar amount of beef for your next backyard barbecue. The company expects it will take at least 10 years before lab-grown meat is commercially viable.
Founded in August 2011, Brooklyn-based Modern Meadow has raised $53.5 million and is one of the top-funded agtech startups around. The startup promises to one day work on edible meat but currently focuses on producing cruelty-free leather. The company started out as a small lab using tissue engineering to produce leather from animal cells. Now it uses gene-editing techniques to engineer specialized collagen-producing yeast cells. This is something we’ve discussed previously: Engineering microorganisms such as yeasts to function as a type of nanobot, one of the major advances of synthetic biology....
"Where’s The Beef? China Signs $300 Million Deal with Israel to Import ‘Lab Meat’"
I may have to cool it with the 'Frankenmeat' talk.
Meat the Future?
We had been looking at this stuff through the lens of the world's richest guy and what he's up to:
Bill Gates Invests In Another Lab-Grown Meat Company
"Bill Gates headlines an all-star list of investors pumping $75 million into meatless burgers"
Mr. Gates also partnered with Li Ka-Shing and Khosla on Hampton Creek which is attempting to pivot from Just Mayo into laboratory-grown 'meat'.*
*"Mayo-scandal firm Hampton Creek from San Francisco going whole hog for Frankenmeat: report"
Just Mayo Guy, Hampton Creek's Josh Tetrick, Pivots to Industrial Scale Ingredient Supply Biz
Hampton Creek: Remember All Our Vegetarian Talk? Never Mind