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After Memphis Meats recently closed the largest funding moment in the history of the cultured meat industry, we’re now one step closer to a sustainable food industry. It’s exciting to see how clean meat companies like Memphis Meats are focused on making a positive change and it’s great to see further backing from some of the world’s top investors, meat industry leaders and groups.
I was 17 when I first started working in a theater in Amsterdam, Holland. For me, it was the first time that I served food to large groups of people. It was a walking dinner for invitees of the piece that premiered that evening. I remember the layout of the dishes was absolutely amazing and in collaboration with a local caterer we worked our asses off until midnight to get both the drinks and the food on the right spots.
It was a great experience to be part of this exclusive evening and make people happy with theatre and food. But I also remember the food waste of that night as it was yesterday. At that point, little did I know about food and events and how much you have to throw away afterwards. With every serving that ended up in the trash, my stomach turned around.
But I was not the only one who was amazed at the dozens of portions that were thrown in the trash before our eyes. I remember a colleague who made an effort to carefully ask the caterer (who was sweating his forehead like crazy) about what was being done with the excess food. But it was in vain since he didn’t like to respond. I think it said something about the speed and pressure under which we had to work.
The demand for meat
Making the food industry more sustainable is a challenge for many years to come. This waste of food is is definitely one of the struggles this industry deals with. But looking more closely into the ethical and environmental issues of the food industry, one must conclude that there are way more challenges to tackle.
One of those challenges is our meat consumption and production. First of all, animal rearing can have a big toll on the environment because you have to feed the animal far more calories than you extract when you eat it. It’s especially problematic as we convert large swaths of land from crops that feed people to crops that feed cows and pigs. Secondly, clearing forests to make more farmland contributes to climate change, as do the greenhouse gases produced by all those animals.
This will leave us with both a problem and a challenge as well. As demand for meat is expected to double by 2050, this environmental impact will only become larger. In the book Should We Eat Meat author Vaclav Smil rightly asks if it’s still OK to eat farmed meat. Because the richer the world gets, the more meat it eats; the more meat it eats, the bigger the threat to the planet. So how do we square this circle?
Revolutionizing the food system
I carry the idea that the meat industry is long overdue for innovation. Of course we can make a difference by becoming vegetarian or vegan and change our meat eating habits. But can we expect from large groups of people all around the world to drastically reduce their meat consumption and most importantly; will it be enough?
I think it would be wise to look at alternative ways to reduce that consumption too. If we want to create a secure and sustainable food system, then the meat industry truly needs to be revolutionized too. One of those potential innovations might be cultured meat.
This new way of producing meat could be a clean alternative to bring to our dinner tables. Like never before, the technology allows us to grow real and farmed meat from a single animal cell, without the need to raise animals. This will not only make a positive impact on the food system, but also on human health, the environment and animal welfare.
Different start-ups are developing similar, but cutting-edge innovation right now and I’m excited to hear more of these developments. To me it’s a very nice prospect if in the next few decades the practice of killing animals for food will largely be a thing of the past.
I decided to have a closer look on this start-up a few years ago. Memphis Meat is one of those startups that is trying to revolutionize the food system by using this innovative way to produce clean meat. Recently Memphis Meat closed the largest funding moment in the history of the cultured meat industry, with investors like Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Richard Branson shares with Forbes, “I am proud to invest once again in Memphis Meats, the world’s leading cell-based meat company. In the next few decades I believe that cell-based meat will become a major part of our global meat supply. I cannot wait for that day!”
Memphis Meats has developed production methods that do not require fetal bovine serum (FBS) to grow their cells, and they do not expect to ever sell products made with FBS. This is critical for all cell-base companies, as FBS is expensive, inconsistent in quality, and derived from animals, which largely defeats the purpose behind these mission-driven companies.
There’s a lot of debate as to when we can expect to see these products in the market. The company has not yet announced a date for product launch and is working with regulatory agencies to ensure a timely and safe market entry. It’s worth noting the importance of the USDA and FDA agreeing to jointly regulate this industry, as these agencies will have a huge influence on when cell-based products can come to market.
But with the ability to raise this kind of capital from partners like Cargill and Tyson, Memphis Meats will likely deliver on that promise sooner than you think. Memphis Meats expects to use the funds to build a pilot production facility, continue to grow its world-class team, and to hit a major milestone of launching products into the market.
“The reality is that conventional production methods for meat can’t keep up with global demand, which is expected to double by 2050. Cell-based meat addresses this issue while offering enormous potential to improve the environment and have a positive impact on food safety and animal welfare. Memphis Meats is on a mission to serve up real meat without the compromise. We are thrilled to partner with this visionary team,” said Priti Youssef Choksi, Partner at Norwest Venture Partners.
First of all, start-ups like Memphis Meats are promising alternatives to farmed meat. If you’re interested in more clear-eyed analysis about the topic, I can truly recommend the book of Vaclav Mil. If you’re interested in more books that I read, head over to my bookshelf or to this section for book reviews.
Although the author is right about cultured meat only being available for the ones that are able to afford it, I’m optimistic that it will eventually become available to many more people. I’m happy to hear and learn more about cultured meat. What are your thoughts about it? And would you like to eat or buy it yourself? Please use the comment section below!
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All of these photos belong to Memphis Meats.