Medium Rare Lab Meat

Michael Wenner
Dec 13th, 2019
Time to brush off your 7th grade science books. Cells are the basic structural, functional, and biological unit of all known organisms. They are often called the "building blocks of life.” Organisms, such as plants and animals, wouldn’t exist without these cells.

Still following? That means that you need to sacrifice animals, which have cells, in order to have meat, right? Not necessarily. A company called Memphis Meats has developed a way to create “clean meat” that doesn’t harm animals. Despite its name, the company is based out of Berkeley, CA.

Memphis Meats begins the process of creating its lab-grown meat by harvesting meat cells from livestock. The livestock isn’t killed in the process so consumers can feel good about what they’re eating. These cells are then fed nutrients so they can grow over a period of four to six weeks. Memphis Meats has compared the process to that of brewery, as opposed to a lab.

So how does lab-grown meat taste? Memphis Meats says “Most importantly, our meat is delicious! It's real meat, and life-long meat eaters immediately recognize it and enjoy it.” The company has already concocted meatballs, beef fajitas, as well as chicken and duck.

"It is thrilling to introduce the first chicken and duck that didn't require raising animals," Memphis Meats CEO Uma Valeti said. "This is a historic moment for the clean-meat movement.”

Fake Meat Ain't Cheap

You’re probably wondering what it costs to produce this futuristic meat. The answer is not cheap. As of 2017, it cost about $18,000 to produce a pound of Memphis Meats beef compared to about $4 for store-bought beef. A pound of Memphis Meats poultry cost about half of the price at $9,000 per pound. Progress is being made, though. Memphis Meats has reduced the cost to produce a pound of its meat to $2,400 per pound. For comparison, in 2013, the first ever lab grown burger, backed by Google founder Sergey Brin, cost $330,000 to produce. Memphis Meats said it “expects to continue reducing production costs dramatically, with a target launch of its products to consumers in 2021.”

While Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have a strong foothold on the plant-based meat alternative market, lab-grown meat has plenty of companies vying to disrupt the multi-billion dollar meat industry. Besides Memphis Meats, other notable companies working on similar products include Future Meat Technologies, Finless Foods, Just and Mosa Meat, maker of the $330,000 burger.

All-Star Plant-Based Investors

Memphis Meats raised $17 million in Series A funding in August 2017. The round was led by Tesla and SpaceX investor DFJ Venture Capital. Other notable investors who participated include Cargill, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Jack and Suzy Welch and Elon Musk’s younger brother Kimbal Musk. A few months later, in January 2018, Tyson Foods—which sells about $30 billion worth of meat per year, disclosed a minority stake in Memphis Meats.

Tyson said of the investment, “We continue to invest significantly in our traditional meat business, but also believe in exploring additional opportunities for growth that give consumers more choices.”

As consumers increasingly seek alternatives to meat, the number of companies working on solutions makes it clear this isn’t a passing fad. Regardless if Memphis Meats becomes a market leader or one of a handful of companies in the space, you can bet that within the next few years their products will be sitting in a much larger meat-alternatives section at your local grocery store.

What Else Happened This Week

Chalk up another L for Softbank. Capping off an eventful year that saw the WeWork IPO crumble along with its valuation, Softbank has sold its stake in dog-walking app Wag back to the company. The price of the sale is not known but it is believed to be below the $650 million valuation Wag received when Softbank invested in the company two years ago. "We are amicably parting ways with SoftBank and SoftBank will no longer have Board representation," Wag CEO Garrett Smallwood said in a memo to employees. "We thank the Vision Fund for their support in the company to date."

It's not your grandparents' Walmart. Walmart has announced a pilot program with autonomous driving startup Nuro to deliver groceries. The program, which will be tested in Houston, is Walmart's latest move to modernize its business to remain competitive with Amazon. Nuro has received over $1 billion in funding from investors such as SoftBank and Greylock Partners. "Our unparalleled size and scale has allowed us to steer grocery delivery to the front doors of millions of families – and design a roadmap for the future of the industry," said Tom Ward, Walmart’s SVP of digital operations."

Airbnb is placing a bet. Zeus Living, which has built a marketplace for long-term corporate housing rentals, has raised $55 million in Series B funding at a $205 million valuation. Airbnb likes the idea enough to come on board as an investor. Zeus Living, which rents properties to relocated employees for at least 30 days, has seen revenue increase 300% this year to more than $100 million. Zeus Living has so far hosted 27,000 residents and currently operates in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Seattle, Washington, D.C. and New York.

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