Many people worldwide enjoy eating meat. I am one of those people. However, I do recognize that growing meat can be an environmentally disastrous and, at times, morally dubious thing to do. This is why I was excited when I read that a company called Memphis Meats has some new and powerful backers. The project aims to grow edible meat in labs instead of relying on the raising and slaughtering of animals for our meat products.
Recently Memphis Meats announced that it had some new and exciting backers. DFJ, a venture capital firm that is known for having backed SpaceX, Skype, and Tesla, courted big-name investors to help raise US$17 million for Memphis Meats. Among these investors were Bill Gates and Richard Branson. Other investors included Cargill, New Crop Capital, and Inevitable Ventures.
Collectively, the company has netted US$22 million in investment to date. This capital will be used to scale up Memphis Meats’s production capabilities and further product research. The company ultimately aims to make its meat cheaper than traditionally-sourced meat.
The first time I heard about this project, I wondered if it really needed to exist. However, after doing some research I tend to agree with the project’s view that this is both necessary and inevitable. Clearly, people with far more business acumen than I agree with them. Global demand for meat is on the rise and unlikely to slow down. In the United States and other western nations, we tend to forget that other countries do not share our access to opulence, though they are getting there. Lab-grown meat probably is the most efficient way to address that market demand. After all, the meat industry is nearly a trillion dollar market.
Once the research and development connected to producing meat efficiently and on a large scale is completed, businesses like Memphis Meats may quickly expand beyond the traditional meat market. While I have no doubt that traditional meat production will stick around, it may be in the form of a more expensive and artisanal experience. I say this because growing an animal and slaughtering it requires an incredible amount of resources. Water, feed, medicine, humane slaughter equipment, removal of waste products, and more all drive up the price of meat. Growing meat in a lab only requires sufficient resources for those fast-growing cells, rather than also maintaining discarded and uneaten parts of an animal for years. This would also positively impact the environment by requiring less resources and cutting down on waste materials.
While the chances of most people eating meat that does not come from an animal anytime soon are slim, the recent influx of cash to this project means we will likely get there sooner than was expected. Personally, I cannot wait.
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