Cultured meat products, meat-like products grown in a lab from cells extracted from animals without requiring the animals to be slaughtered, could allow to world to continue eating meat without the environmental and ethical issues that surround the conventional meat industry.
Over the last few years, start-ups around the world have been racing to bring the first cultured meat products to market. This article explores five companies at the forefront of the cultured meat revolution, based on analysis from a recent IDTechEx Research report.
The company where it all began, Mosa Meat was founded in 2013 by Dr Mark Post of Maastricht University. In August 2013, Post cooked and tasted the world’s first cell-cultured hamburger in front of a crowd of journalists in London.
The hamburger was produced from bovine muscle cells grown in the lab and reportedly cost over €250,000 to produce. Luckily, things have moved on since then, with Mosa Meat currently claiming it can grow a “beef” patty for around €9.
Mosa Meat is aiming for a small scale commercial release within the next few years, following scale up of production facilities and regulatory approval.
Memphis Meats is a Californian-cultured meat start-up founded by cardiologist Dr Uma Valeti and cell biologist Dr Nicholas Genovese in 2015. Much like Mosa Meat, Memphis Meats uses myosatellite cells to grow meat products, with the company having produced cultured chicken nuggets and beef meatballs, as well as duck tissue.
In 2020, the company completed a $161 million Series B fundraising, by far the largest funding round ever completed by a cultured meat company, which the company intends to use to construct a pilot production facility.
With over $181 million in private funding from backers, including Richard Branson, Bill Gates, and meat industry giant Tyson Foods, many are expecting Memphis Meats to be the first company to successfully release a cultured meat product.
Aleph Farms is an Israeli start-up developing cultured meat products. Whereas most cultured meat companies are developing “unstructured” meat products such as burgers and nuggets, which are technically easier to produce, Aleph Farms is going one step further by creating cultured steaks using proprietary 3D technology.
Not all cultured meat companies are focusing on beef and chicken. BlueNalu is a start-up based in San Diego, California, that is developing cultured seafood products. In August 2019, BlueNalu became the first cultured meat producer to release design schematics for a large-scale production facility and describe a strategy for commercialising cultured meat.
Another company working on developing cultured seafood products is California start-up Finless Foods, which is currently attempting to develop cultured bluefin tuna. Bluefin tuna is an expensive and endangered animal that cannot be farmed using aquaculture, and so there is a pressing need to develop an alternative.
The company believes that the path to success in cultured meat is through delivering new experiences, rather than simply replicating meat, and delivering an inferior copy. For example, rather than culturing cod meat that Western consumers are very familiar with, culturing cells from species that Western consumers have never had before, delivering an exciting new experience.