Memphis Meats expects meat from cells in stores by 2021 and eventually at $1 per pound

Cargill Inc., one of the largest global agricultural companies, has joined Bill Gates and other business giants to invest in a nascent technology to make meat from self-producing animal cells amid rising consumer demand for protein that’s less reliant on feed, land and water.

Memphis Meats, which produces beef, chicken and duck directly from animal cells without raising and slaughtering livestock or poultry, raised $17 million from investors including Cargill, Gates and billionaire Richard Branson, according to a statement Tuesday on the San Francisco-based startup’s website. The fundraising round was led by venture-capital firm DFJ, which has previously backed several social-minded retail startups.

They made the first ever chicken and duck meat that were produced without the animals.

The company expects to have a product in stores by 2021.

“They’re the leader in clean meat. There’s no one else that far along,” says venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson, whose firm led Memphis Meats’ recent $17 million Series A. Before he met Valeti in 2016, Jurvetson spent almost five years researching lab-grown meat and meat alternatives, believing the market was set to explode. “They’re the only one that convinced me they can get to a price point and a scale that would make a difference in the industry,” he says.

Livestock account for 14.5 percent of greenhouse gas production–more than all transportation combined.

The FAO expecting meat consumption to nearly double by 2050.

Another Silicon Valley startup, Impossible Foods, has raised almost $300 million for a veggie burger that browns like ground beef and even “bleeds” when served rare, thanks to the presence of heme, a com­ponent of the blood molecule hemoglobin, which is also found in plants. The Impossible burger mimics the taste of a haute fast-food patty, though its consistency is not quite there–the outside caramelizes, but the interior is a tad puddingy. (Gates has put money into Impossible, as well as in its competitor, Beyond Meat.)

For Memphis Meats, with its significant head start and singular focus, the path to success is straightforward. It needs to make its meats more appetizing and much cheaper.

This sumemer they invited more than 25 people to sample fried chicken and duck à l’orange. The event was deemed a success. “They really nailed the texture and mouthfeel,” one guest, sustainable food advocate Emily Byrd, said. But it was expensive. Growing that “poultry” cost about $9,000 per pound. At his company meeting, Valeti revealed that the most recent harvest, in May, had been considerably cheaper, with the meat costing $3,800 per pound. “I want it to keep going down by a thousand dollars a month,” said Valeti. “Our goal is to get to cost parity, and then beat commercial meat.”

They want to get to $1 per pound for meat.

Memphis Meats could persuade influential chefs to feature its wares on their menus. Another would be genetically engineering nutritional profiles so the company could tout increased health benefits–adding, say, omega-3 fatty acids to beef to make it as healthy as salmon.

33 thoughts on “Memphis Meats expects meat from cells in stores by 2021 and eventually at $1 per pound”

  1. Getting chicken or other types of meat for $1 a pound while decreasing pain, pollution, and global warming sounds like a good idea. I hope they develop it. I doubt regular meat systems will collapse, except perhaps at the industrial level. Bring it on.

    But will it be both cheaper and better? Why is it that a Garden Burger cost $4 while a fast-food chicken or beef burger costs $1? Subsidies may underwrite the cost. But why, when it takes (by some estimates) 14 times the vegetable matter to feed and grow meat, do granola and garden burgers stay so expensive?

  2. They might be able to enlist the aid of the vegan/PETA crowd, who would welcome the prospect of less animals being killed for human consumption.
    So can this type of meat be deemed as kosher or halal?

    • Another problem I can see is that a cloned monoculture will inevitably become the target of disease, bacteria, viruses, parasites, pathogens, whatever. This could cause grave dangers down the road.

      • Not if it was handled sensibly.
        (a big ask, I know)

        If a wide variety of small herds were maintained as seed stock and the clone lines maintained from them you could sustain a form of hybrid vigor, and it could be justified to the all-fucking-mighty shareholders as mult-level branding.

        Add in back-up sperm and ova banks from the stock herds and the risks can be affordably reduced… while keeping the PETA folks happy and engaged because it’s now all about animal conservation.

        • That assumes there won’t be any animals used for food by everyone. Which is as realistic as saying everyone will stop cooking food in whatever way they do and all start eating in McDo just because they exist.

          The widespread adoption and replacement of meat by this tech would certainly result in a strong reduction in the populations of cows, pigs, etc. Except in the cases where this technology is not competitive with raising a live animal.

          For cows it could be competitive soon (big, slow growing, expensive animals), but for small fast-growing animals like chicken and fish it could be less competitive for the foreseeable future. And for the poor, nothing beats having a few chicks or turkey on their backyard, feeding themselves on insects or whatever they can find on their land. No fancy infrastructure or cloning vats needed. Gee, even cows could be competitive if your main source of food is self-production.

          Also the developed world still has horses even if there was a sensible reduction in their population when they were no longer as important for transportation. Some people simply like having farms and animals, so there will be cows.

          And there is of course, those that simply like things the natural way. Milk and meat from legit cows would probably gain a renewed market value, just because they don’t come from a vat. Akin to “organic” food that is cool just because it’s produce in the “old style”.

          If the nutters don’t get uppity and try to force everyone to eat the gruel from the vats, that is. Which in my knowledge, they aren’t above trying to do. They try it even now when we still need animal meat and products.

          • Agreed. There will be some who will stick to the live-meat process because of religious concerns (I would wager it will be not kosher/halal for most sects), some who think it is somehow superior (like people who still listen to vinyl records today), and for the home hobbyists, like the craft brew industry, even when buying a Bud Light or Sam Adams is obviously cheaper and easier.

            Then there’s still the market for animal byproducts. Leather, wool, gelatin, feather pillows are obvious ones, but there any many others uses of animal byproducts, such as food dye, makeup, bone meal in fertilizer, etc. It would take decades to replace all of that.

      • “a cloned monoculture will inevitably become the target of disease, bacteria, viruses, parasites, pathogens, whatever”

        How would cloning be any different than a large herd of genetically similar animals?

        In the lab there wouldn’t be parasites for sure, those are usually picked up by the animal when eating and rely on specific body organs for reproduction and feeding. Pathogens is a repeat of bacteria, viruses and parasites, so you’re repeating yourself. The genetic diversity of the cloned meat could be as diverse as the current live meat. (In practice it probably wouldn’t be, unless there’s a demonstrated need for that, but it definitely could be).

        • There’s a reason why sexual reproduction evolved – it’s not the same as asexual reproduction or cloning – it mixes up the genetics more and scrambles the locks. The pathogens (only somebody anal would point out whether it’s a repetition or not – get the stick out of your ass) are going to become a threat sooner or later. Ants always show up to a picnic.

        • Diversity of cloned meat would probably be greater than farmed meat.
          With farmed meat you are limited to easily farmed animals, largely chickens, pigs and cows. Though there are of course a fair bit of variety in that last 10%.

          With cloned meat? Should be no reason that beef cells would be any easier to grow than venison, or elephant, or whale, or lobster, or panda, or penguin, or….

  3. “Clean” meat? So, we’re supposed to think that real meat, derived from animals, is *dirty*?

    Man, do I ever hate food extremist terminology. Like pretending that only food raised the way they like is “organic”, when the only food that ISN’T organic is salt.

    That said, if it tastes like real meat, is equally nutritious, and *is cheaper*, I’ll eat it. I’m not a fanatic, I just hate the way fanatics warp the language.

    “Clean” meat. Give me a break!

    • An interesting alternative for those who are addicted to meat. Being a vegetarian for more than 30 years I know that most eat meat for pleasure and not out of necessity. It’s always ludicrous to hear or read that those who are not racist (they don’t think the human race is THE superior race and that intitle us to kill everything for mere pleasure) are fanatics and those eating bits of dead bodies on a daily basis are good guys.
      Because we’ve got to tolerate most addictions even if they screw up our health or environment (tobacco, oil, meat and so on) I’m glad to see that those addicted to meat will be able to keep on doing so without causing too much damage to the remaining wild life.

      • If you consider cows and chickens etc. wild life, then consider that they’ll likely go extinct if they are no longer providing their flesh for human consumption. Is not existing better than existing?

        • There’ll still be hobby farms, petting zoos, etc. Probably people interested in live meat for religious reasons or nostalgia. They won’t go extinct. And even if they do, half a dozen livestock species in the developed world is a drop in the bucket compared to what is actually going extinct in the world today.

      • It’s not so much “addicted to meat” as it is “addicted to that form of calories”. We all have a massive microbiome inside us, with most of it concentrated in our gut. These little guys help break down food and enable us to get more calories out of food than we otherwise would. Our diets and daily routine, over the years, enables which microbes become “top of the food chain” so to speak. This is why some people become weak or sick when they significantly switch diets and lifestyles, for instance giving up meat: going their whole lives and cultivating a gut that can digest meat very efficiently, a sudden reversal in the quantity of meat and veggies is a big change. That’s not to say that we can’t change, it just requires time and energy, the latter of which is hard to get when your caloric extraction rate just plummeted in efficiency. There’s also some soft support for the little guys in our gut influencing us by signalling the release of chemicals that alter behavior, for instance serotonin. Sort of turns “addiction” on its head.

        Such a fascinating, re-emerging field. We’re exploring the mysteries in the expansive depths of the cosmos, oceans, and now our guts.

        • Mostly agree with you but most of us don’t lack of calories and even proteins in the industrial world and there’s plenty of them in a vegetarian diet (vegan is more complicated but doable too). I chose “addicted” because for many people food is mostly pleasure and they don’t care of their real needs hence the epidemy of obesity. I wouldn’t even think of drinking colas on a regular basis or eating ice-creams for ex. There’s almost nothing in them for my health and much too calories…
          Someone becoming pure vegan in 24h is bound to have a few problems of course but a vegetarian that would substitute meat with cauliflowers and carrots would have too over time.
          Most people don’t know and care about their body needs and don’t know what to eat, of course a fraction of veggies are in the same situation.
          Last time I checked the difference between a world eating like an average european or american citizen and a vegetarian world was something between 10 and 20 million square kilometers (in term of land needs to grow food). It’s huge. So huge there won’t be any place left beyond all deserts for wild fauna. A giant ecocide.
          Do we want to leave someplace to exist to all the other species ? If the answer is yes I’m glad there’s more than one alternative for those liking meat…

    • Yeah, the terminology “organic” has always irritated me. I don’t like redefining words or symbols or phrases. Organic means “relating to living matter” or based on the chemistry of carbon-based molecules, like hydrocarbons. The rainbow is simply the visible spectrum and has no political slant. New Jersey shall remain the garden state even if it eventually ceases to have any gardens.

    • I think they’re going with labeling it “clean” meat because it doesn’t require the death of a living animal. It’s like the same way that having done a bad deed (indeed a “dirty” deed) is often said as getting one’s hands “dirty”.

      The meat, the deed, the hands…no dirt is actually involved. The act is what’s viewed as unclean. It’s a little sensationalist, but in my opinion, labeling this meat as clean is more believable than other labels nowadays, such as “organic”.

      That being said, my main concern too is the nutritional value. Previously, these lab-grown meats just didn’t pass muster in both the taste department and with that a human could usefully extract from them. Otherwise, even if it’s cheap, what’s the point, right?

    • Yeah, the term is a major PR screw-up but I believe the intent was to play off of the term “clean energy” …as animal farming is a large greenhouse gas contributor via methane.

      In that context the term made sense, and I could see how it might fly at an initial PR meetimg.

      But indirectly evoking the the context of “dirty meat” in the average consumer mind would be a declaration of war against the entire animal husbandry industry and thus not survivable at this startup stage. It is a terrible choice for a statup PR campaign and I wonder if the PR firm involved was referred to Memphis vfrom a Con Agra subsidiary…


      They should have stuck with “Green Meat” 🙂

      • “Green meat” wouldn’t be good marketing, think about it (“they’re not tainted patties…”). Much like pink slime isn’t nearly as good a name as “finely textured beef”.

    • Have you ever been to a feedlot? Animals are messy, and they’re walking around in manure. Contamination is a big concern in the slaughterhouse. A laboratory environment, by comparison, is definitely cleaner.

      This is coming from somebody who grew up on a farm. I remember an older neighbor telling a story from back when he worked in a creamery in the 60’s. They were allowed only a certain level of contaminants in the cream. One day they tested lower than normal, well under the limits, so an employee picked up some manure off the floor and flicked it into the cream. “Now it’s back to normal”.

      • Not a feedlot, but I did grow up rural, with a horse boarding stable on one side of my home, and a corn field on the other. The neighbor the other side of the horses raised buffalo. Most of the deer in the neighborhood lived in my woods. (Pity they knew enough to relocate to the horse pasture after opening day.)

        Just because pigs like rolling in mud and chickens poop doesn’t mean their meat isn’t “clean”.

  4. I dunno. It just doesn’t seem to have the same qualities…

    (Charlton Heston strained voice)

    “It’s chicken. Soylent Green is made out of CHICKEN!”

  5. I can imagine how people living in the middle ages would be shocked to see people eating meat and vegetables from a can. I see this as being now different. If it’s cheap, safe and tastes good I’m game.

  6. I’m going to put arrows through two young deer each fall/winter until I am too arthritic to sit in the cold anymore.

  7. If it tastes right and it’s cheap, I’m all for it.

    Nevertheless I’m fairly certain this will bring the nuts out of the bushes, pushing for outlawing meat for everyone, even if this is not cheap enough to ensure food security for everyone in the developed or the 3rd world.

    I’d recommend them to wait (as if they heeded any reason) and see how cheap and universally applicable as food staple this can become. If it’s better and cheaper, it will come naturally.

    Also, this is great for space settlement prospects. No need to put live cows or chicken in a rocket and bring them to Mars.

    • What they really need is a plant/animal, grows like algae, then a chemical cue causes it to transform into pseudo-meat. Or maybe a perennial vine that bears steaks.

      It will take a lot of engineering, but I think we’ll have stuff like that eventually. It’s biologically feasible.

  8. What do they ‘feed’ the cells they are growing to make the meat?
    Some sort of protein rich vegetable broth?
    ‘Impossible Foods’ goal of making the veggie proteins taste like meat sound likely to be cheaper.

    • Interesting tidbit: a local burger chain by me, BurgerFi, recently started selling Beyond Meat burgers. Within three weeks it was their top selling item.

  9. perfect for quick eats, like McDonald’s or for people who want quick meals. I’m hoping they can retain some flavor, but I suppose if you add enough spices…
    Getting the omegas down if pure win, until THEY decide big omega numbers are good for you.

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