To get a hamburger patty or steak, you need a cow, right? Maybe not.
This summer, Bill Gates and Richard Branson headlined a $17 million Series A round to back Memphis Meats, a “clean meat” company that has already produced beef, chicken and duck directly from animal cells — no cow needed.
The process bypasses the need to breed, raise and slaughter animals.
In a release, the San Francisco-based company said that it “plans to use the funds to continue developing delicious products, to accelerate its work in scaling up clean meat production, and to reduce production costs to levels comparable to — and ultimately below — conventional meat costs.”
Despite the financial and technological advances, the traditional meat world does not appear to be nervous about the eventual growing of “clean meat.”
Rather, it’s more troubled by its branding.
“Obviously, it’s a marketing term and that would be our main concern with the product,” said Hannah Thompson-Weeman, vice president of communications at Animal Agriculture Alliance. “Using that terminology somehow implies that conventionally raised meat from animals is somehow dirty. Obviously, that’s not the case. Our food supply is the safest it’s ever been.
“There’s a global demand for protein that’s increasing every day as the middle class gets bigger in other countries,” Thompson-Weeman continued. “The first thing that they add to their diet is more protein [which is] frequently from animal products. So having other options in the marketplace that help us meet that demand, there’s no issue with that. It’s another option for consumers out there.”
Thompson-Weeman said that Tyson Foods and Cargill investing in the meat alternative space shows that the traditional industry is “isn’t really threatened by these products,” but rather sees them as another option for consumers.
“We definitely don’t see it [so-called clean meat] displacing conventionally raised meat anytime soon,” she said.
Senior editor at Beef Magazine Burt Rutherford agrees.
“I don’t think it will cut into beef demand very much, if at all. The percentage of the population that doesn’t eat beef or other meats now is fairly small and while a certain portion of those who choose to only eat organic or natural meat will likely try ‘clean meat,’ my hunch is that won’t detract from the overall demand for beef, especially traditional beef at all. And those who don’t eat any meat now but will try clean meat aren’t a part of the demand formula for beef to begin with.”
While the company’s story is still yet to be written, Uma Valeti, co-founder/CEO of Memphis Meats, ultimately feels that meat products are an important part of the global economy and the daily lives of many.
“The world loves to eat meat, and it is core to many of our cultures and traditions,” Valeti said in a statement. “Meat demand is growing rapidly around the world. We want the world to keep eating what it loves. However, the way conventional meat is produced today creates challenges for the environment, animal welfare and human health.”
That’s something she hopes her company will be able to address.
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