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posted by Fnord666 on Sunday November 05 2017, @03:29PM   Printer-friendly
from the vat-grown dept.

Submitted via IRC for takyon

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.

Cargill is the largest privately held corporation in the United States in terms of revenue ($109.7 billion in 2017).


Previously: Lab-Grown Chicken (and Duck) Could be on the Menu in 4 Years

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  • (Score: 2) by looorg on Sunday November 05 2017, @06:32PM (4 children)

    by looorg (578) on Sunday November 05 2017, @06:32PM (#592594)

    Anything about the price per unit (kg or that other weird unit non-metric "people" use) of this "clean meat"? Also are we going to have to change the definitions here of what is "meat" and not? Meat is the flesh of animals. If no animals are involved no meat? or?

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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by takyon on Sunday November 05 2017, @07:11PM (2 children)

    by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Sunday November 05 2017, @07:11PM (#592608) Journal

    It's basically not commercially available at all. It's still in the R&D + Silicon Valley / venture capitalist stage.

    The source story has an optimistic estimate: $1 / pound. Compare that to cheap ground beef: $2-3/lb, or cheap chicken: $1-3/lb. Note that most supermarkets mark down older meat, to as much as 50% off, before throwing it away.

    A couple of years ago, it was reported that the cost of making a $325,000 lab grown burger had declined to $11.36 [] ($80 per kilogram). Now there is obviously some bullshit numeromancy going on there. But it gives you an idea that people are seriously considering the economics of this approach and it is ready to scale.

    This new story is about Cargill's involvement. There was some reticence in the traditional meat industries about lab grown meat, and predictions like "it won't reach consumers for 20 years". That might be set to change. However, even if Memphis Meats hits grocery stores and restaurants by 2021, I wouldn't expect the existing infrastructure to be meat obsolete for at least a decade more, during which time the lab grown meats will become cheaper.

    I don't see a real problem with calling it meat. We should just agree to a simple definition of meat that encompasses both: "meat = a tissue made primarily of muscle cells". Boom, done.

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    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 05 2017, @09:15PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 05 2017, @09:15PM (#592656)

      Whether or not calling it meat is a problem depends a great deal on how accurate the reproduction is. It's got the same nutritional value, taste, texture and the rest of it as regular meat that's not going to be enough. We also have to have some assurance that the process hasn't introduced chemicals into the meat that weren't in meat to begin with.

      But, I think if they manage that, then I have no particular problem with them calling it meat, it would be meat in all practical ways, just with no brain attached at any point.

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by takyon on Sunday November 05 2017, @10:17PM

        by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Sunday November 05 2017, @10:17PM (#592681) Journal

        Like I mentioned in another comment, lab grown meat could certainly enable a cheaper "pink slime". You could throw in any number of chemicals just like is done with traditional meats. And yes, it should be evaluated to make sure it isn't introducing something unexpected during the culturing process. But I see it as capable of also producing meat similar in quality to premium meats, if not better, at a lower cost.

        If you look at the lab grown burger PR event [] from a few years ago, the major complaint from the taste testers was that there was no fat in the burger, which made it dry. They had to cook it in butter to add any sort of fat content. It was just muscle cells with no fat.

        Otherwise, it looked just like a burger, and like a ground beef patty before it was cooked. It's clear that the first plausible application for lab grown meat is extra lean ground beef. The strands of muscle cells that they produced were too short to do anything but make ground beef.

        Supermarkets usually sell 93% lean ground beef. I could see lab grown beef being mixed with a 70% lean "real beef" to hit a number like that. That doesn't achieve the goal of eliminating ALL use of livestock, but it is a quick way to get it onto the market, and something that might be done if lab grown meat defeats cattle on costs.

        As always, skittish consumers could tank this with their hysteria, so I'm sure we will see more PR for the concept. Maybe even some counter-PR from livestock companies that don't want to lose market share.

        Memphis Meats may be further along the path to commercialization than others are, but I haven't heard of any talk yet of throwing bones into the mix. Many meat products contain bones, and bones can be used to make broth, add flavor to beans and stews, etc. Unlike what they have been doing with strands of muscle cells, they may need to... 3D print bones using bone cells? They could take a page from what biomedical science people are doing [] in this area.

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  • (Score: 2) by takyon on Sunday November 05 2017, @07:21PM

    by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Sunday November 05 2017, @07:21PM (#592614) Journal

    I'll add that given the nature of the product (no animal suffering, supported philosophically by PETA as well as less rabid animal activists, less environmental impact, potential to be grown without exposure to antibiotics or pesticides), you could see how this might be sold at a premium in the initial years. This could allow it to compete against "organic", "cruelty free", and "cage free" products that can easily be 2-3 times more expensive than their normal counterparts. For example, in a previous story I quoted a price of $6/lb for bulk Costco chicken breasts. Normal chicken breasts cost something closer to $2/lb.

    It also has the potential to allow the creation of meats that would normally be unmarketable or illegal (at least in some contexts, like the amount you can hunt). Penguin, lion, human (HeLameat?), whatever. Once you isolate the cells, you can grow it.

    And if you can mimic marbling, bone scaffolds, and other characteristics needed for advanced cuts, you could imagine the creation of novel meat experiences that don't currently exist. Like beef in the shape/texture/bone structure of a fish filet (IDK - whatever).

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