A growing number of startups are trying to produce meat products without using animals, with a view to addressing concerns about animal welfare and the carbon footprint of meat. However, Chris Lo, Consumer Analyst at GlobalData, reports that new products will not be ready to hit the shelves until 2021.
Lo commented: "Memphis Meats, a 2016 startup secured funding this year from a group of investors, including Bill Gates and Richard Branson, as well as food industry heavyweight Cargill and former General Electric CEO Jack Welch. Venture capital group DFJ, which has previously backed Skype, Tesla and Twitter, led the funding."
Memphis says its ‘clean meat’ is “identical to the meat we eat, down to the cellular level”. They are competing with Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, which produce plant-based burgers said to emulate beef burgers more closely than has been achieved before.
Memphis produces meat by using animal cells, as its products are not meat alternatives. The Silicon Valley-based group has produced beef, chicken and duck in its lab and is aiming to produce all meats by the same methods. The process works by combining self-producing cells in tanks, or bioreactors with oxygen, sugar and other nutrients.
The resulting product is being positioned as a meat that is produced without harming animals or producing methane. There is no wasted land or excess water use, and no deforestation for cattle grazing. The resulting ‘clean meat’ will not have come from animals treated with antibiotics, or grazed on chemically fertilised soil, nor will the meat have been contaminated with anything undesirable in a slaughterhouse.
Aiming for commercially sustainable production
Lo, added, "The 'meat' is being publicised by its venture capital investors as having a better taste and more nutritional value than real meat. However, the presence of Cargill on the investment roster is significant, signalling that Memphis is firmly aiming for commercially sustainable production: a product that is affordable to the growing Chinese and Indian middle classes. Success will ultimately require a huge amount of trust from consumers and transparency from Memphis."