MINNETONKA, Minn. - The meat industry is taking a futuristic leap from pasture to Petri dish.
Cargill, Inc., announced it has joined billionaires Bill Gates and Sir Richard Branson investing in Memphis Meats, a San Francisco-based start-up making real animal beef, chicken and duck from single cells.
The new industry, dubbed “clean” or “lab-cultured” meat, uses self-reproducing muscle stem cells to make the meat without slaughtering a single animal.
“It tasted like duck,” said Sonya Mccolum Roberts, president of growth ventures for Cargill Protein, who recently tasted a sample of Memphis Meats' product. “We are still all about our traditional proteins, but this is an opportunity for us to provide something additional to customers who want something different.”
Memphis Meats has a Minnesota connection. The company was co-founded by former Mayo Clinic cardiologist Dr. Uma Valeti.
“He was already growing tissue for his work, and he decided, ‘Well, if I can do it here, why can't I do it in other avenues and specifically food?’” said Roberts.
Considering the environmental cost of traditional meat farming, the feed cost, the antibiotics, and the finite ability to use more land and water, Cargill sees Memphis Meats as another option for the future of a growing population that will demand more meat.
The first lab-cultured hamburger was created in 2013 by Mark Post, M.D., a Dutch professor who used 20,000 muscle strands grown in his laboratory, according to New Harvest, an industry nonprofit.
The discoveries have led multiple companies to pursue “clean” meat commercially.
Memphis Meats says it could go to market in four or five years, but costs will need to scale down.
Right now, according to Roberts, one pound of lab-cultured meat costs about $2,400.