Sizzling Steaks May Soon Be Lab-Grown
Several startups are racing to be the first to fill U.S. consumers’ plates with lab grown hamburgers and sausages that taste just as good as the kind from cattle and pigs.
Memphis Meats Inc., a San Francisco company founded by three scientists, aims in three to four years to be the first to sell meat grown from animal cells in steel tanks. Rivals including Mosa Meat and Modern Meadow Inc. also aim to bring such “cultured meat” to market in the next several years.
The competition highlights how these efforts have expanded since the 2013 taste test of a burger grown in a lab through a multiyear, $330,000 project funded by Google Inc. co-founder Sergey Brin and spearheaded by physiologist Mark Post . Reviews of the patty were mixed, but encouraged Mr. Post, who co-founded Netherlands-based Mosa Meat, to press on.
The startups’ lofty goal is to remake modern animal agriculture, which the United Nations estimates consumes one-third of the world’s grains, with about a quarter of all land used for grazing. The companies say that growing meat with cells and bioreactors—similar to fermentors used to brew beer—consumes a fraction of the nutrients, creates far less waste and avoids the need for antibiotics and additives commonly used in meat production.
“The meat industry knows their products aren’t sustainable,” said Memphis Meats Chief Executive Uma Valeti, a cardiologist and medical professor at the University of Minnesota. “We believe that in 20 years, a majority of meat sold in stores will be cultured.”
Lab Grown Hamburgers
The potential payoff could be enormous—American spent $186 billion on meat and poultry in 2014—and this month, Memphis Meats plans to announce its strategy and about $2 million in funding from venture-capital firms including SOSV LLC and New Crop Capital.
Some in the meat industry are skeptical that consumers, many of whom are demanding “natural” or organic food made without additives or genetically modified ingredients, will embrace meat grown from animal cells. Representatives for major meat suppliers Tyson Foods Inc., Hormel Foods Corp. and Perdue Farms Inc. declined to comment, saying the technology was still too new.
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