Memphis Meats Inc., a San Leandro, Calif.-based startup developing technology to grow meat from self-reproducing animal cells, raised $17 million in funding Wednesday from investors that included Cargill, Inc., Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, entrepreneur Richard Branson and venture-capital firms Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Atomico.
Cargill’s investment is the first by a traditional meat company in to the ‘clean meat” sector, where startups claim to create products better for the environment than those produced on farms and ranches.
Memphis uses cell-culture technology to grow meat from living animal tissue in stanless-steel cultivator tanks.
This is another way to harvest meat,” Sonya Roberts, head of growth ventures in the meat division at Cargill, told The Wall Street Journal. “For people who want a product from an animal welfare perspective, we want this to be there for them.”
Commercial production of such meat remains years away, and the process still needs to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and USDA. It also remains to be seen if consumers would accept such products.
“Meat demand is growing rapidly around the world. We want the world to keep eating what it loves,” Uma Valeti, co-founder and CEO of Memphis Meats, said in a statement. “However, the way conventional meat is produced today creates challenges for the environment, animal welfare and human health.”
Tyson Foods Inc., the largest U.S. meat producer, has created a venture capital fund focused on investing in companies “to sustainably feed” the world’s growing population and in December announced a stake in plant-based protein producer Beyond Meat, which also counts Gates among its early funders.