Cultured meat is gaining momentum as consumers place greater importance on the impact the foods they eat have on the environment and animal welfare.
Several startups have been working in the space for many years to grow animal tissue in a lab that has the same look, taste and texture as conventional animal protein. Mosa Meat was the first to create a cell-based hamburger in 2013. It’s come a very long way since then, raising at least 75 million euros (nearly $91 million) and both building and expanding a pilot plant to make cell-based meat.
In December 2019, Meatable raised $10 million to pursue a lab-grown pork chop prototype by the end of summer 2020. While some of these startups are working on replicating beef, Meatable is focused on creating pork alternatives in the lab while dabbling in cultured beef.
The startup claims to be different through its proprietary technology that facilitates a more cost-effective and scalable approach to producing cultured meat. Still, Meatable has tough competition in a suddenly crowded field. Aleph Farms, Memphis Meats, Future Meat Technologies, Meat-Tech 3D, Finless Foods and Eat Just are also trying to create muscle cuts in the lab. Some of these startups have backing from major players like Memphis Meats, which counts both Cargill and Tyson as investors.
As these startups raise more investor funding and reach more breakthroughs in their technologies, cultivated meat could soon make its way out of the lab and into upscale restaurants and potentially even the supermarket. This is creating a race to market among cultured meat startups riding the momentum that the plant-based protein movement has already created.
Investors are seeing promise too, pouring $3.1 billion into alternative protein opportunities during 2020 alone, according to The Good Food Institute. A few key developments reflecting the approaching maturity of the cultured protein industry include Singapore’s recent regulatory approval of Eat Just’s cultured chicken.
Being the first to market isn’t the only hurdle that cultured meat startups will need to clear, however. In 2018, three out of 10 U.S. consumers reported interest in trying cultured meat. It’s possible that will change once the product lands in the meat case and becomes more tangible. To increase the likelihood of that happening, the cultured meat industry will need to secure social acceptance and educate consumers about various practices and technology used to make the meat in a lab.