Tyson Ventures, the venture capital arm of Tyson Foods, Inc., has invested an undisclosed amount for a minority stake in Memphis Meats, a developer of cultured meat processed through animal cells.
The investment is an example of Tyson Foods’ commitment to explore innovative ways of meeting growing global demand for protein, according to Tyson. (In 2016, Tyson bought a 5% stake in Beyond Meat, a plant-based meat alternative. In 2017, the company increased their investment in the company.)
Many farmers and ranchers criticize Tyson’s embrace of alternative protein sources, but Tom Hayes, Tyson president and CEO, says the company is focused on protein production—by traditional sources and now, cultured meats and plant-based proteins.
Memphis Meats has already attracted investors such as Bill Gates and Richard Branson. Last August, Cargill invested an undisclosed sum as part of a $17 million round of financing for the company.
The company plans to use the Tyson investment to support its beef, chicken and duck meat research and accelerate product development. Memphis Meats has not yet scaled production into the marketplace.
“We’re excited about this opportunity to broaden our exposure to innovative, new ways of producing meat, especially since global protein demand has been increasing at a steady rate,” said Justin Whitmore, executive vice president corporate strategy and chief sustainability officer of Tyson Foods. “We continue to invest significantly in our traditional meat business, but also believe in exploring additional opportunities for growth that give consumers more choices.”
A Growing Trend
The meat substitutes market will be worth nearly $6 billion by 2022, according to research firm Markets and Markets.
A recent Nielson study shows meat is still the primary sources of protein for U.S. consumers, but plant-based protein is increasing.
Today’s consumers want more protein, Hayes says. “Sixty percent of us are actively trying to add more protein to our diets, and when we think about the attributes we want in our food, protein tops the list – outranking all-natural ingredients and vitamins and minerals.”
A strategy that includes all forms of protein is Tyson’s goal. “It’s another step toward giving today’s consumers what they want and feeding tomorrow’s consumers sustainably for years to come,” Hayes says.