Andy Gordon

Cultured Meat Startups Are the Trend to Watch

Heads up, meat lovers. Biden’s climate plan isn’t the biggest threat to the beef and chicken products you love so much. Neither is plant-based “fake meat.” The biggest threat to traditional meat is the “meat” being developed by new technologies right now. 

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) wrongly tweeted this week that “Joe Biden’s climate plan includes cutting 90 percent of red meat from our diets. They want to limit us to about four pounds a year.” 

She wasn’t the only politician raising a fuss. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) dubbed the commander in chief “the Hamburglar.” 

Hey, guys, there’s no meat on these bones. Their beef stems from a University of Michigan study that said if hypothetically we reduced our meat consumption by dramatic proportions, hypothetically we could lower greenhouse gas emissions on a similarly significant scale.

Limiting American’s real meat intake to four pounds a year is not on anybody’s political agenda.

But here’s something to chew on. Five years from now, you may not even care what’s “real” meat. We’re in the early stages of developing tasty alternative proteins. The space is only 7-to-10 years old. If faux-meat product companies Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat don’t do it for you, there’s plenty more alternatives nipping at their heels. 

 Cell culture is an intriguing technology that could challenge traditional meat. It allows meat “to grow” from cells obtained from animals. And the process to get the cells doesn’t kill the animals. 

Cell-cultured meat is already on grocery market shelves outside the U.S. And it’s getting close to reaching the U.S. 

There’s also academic research and startups working on sophisticated cuts of meat and chicken alternatives, as well as fish substitutes.

Some of these products are a decade or more away from commercialization. Others are right around the corner. Startup Eat Just is readying its latest product: cultured chicken (made from cultured cells). 

So is lab-grown meat real or not?

Eat Just CEO Josh Tetrick is adamant on this point. He says that as opposed to plant based, it’s real in every way. Just no chicken was killed. Eat Just’s product has been approved to sell in Singapore and is awaiting approval in the U.S. 

Another cell-based meat producer is Memphis Meats. It’s offerings include whole burgers, ready to sell to restaurants and stores right now. Memphis Meats is in discussions with the FDA and the USDA on how to “best” label its food products.

My favorite company in this space is Israeli-based Redefine Meat. I’ve been following this company for more than a year. It uses industrial 3D printing to create steaks. The “ink” is made of plant-based ingredients similar to what a cow eats. The technology fully replicates the muscle structure of beef. It is high in protein and has no cholesterol. And according to the company, it looks, cooks, feels and tastes like beef. Much to my frustration, I’ve never tasted one. But they sure look great…

An illustration of the 3D printed whole muscle cut of beef by Redefine Meat (Courtesy)
An illustration of the 3D printed whole muscle cut of beef by Redefine Meat (Courtesy)

 

Redefine Meat aims to sell its printers and cartridges to meat distributors worldwide, who will both print and distribute the meat once produced.

I believe meat lovers (including me) should rejoice at the new options hitting the market. We’re not under attack. On the contrary, startups want to please us. We’re a huge market. And a growing number of us want to eat healthier — but without giving up red meat. And with this new technology, we’ll continue to get our choice of cuts, organic meats, choose fresh or frozen, etc. None of that changes. 

But, thanks to startups, we’ll have additional optionality, choosing from an array of alternative protein foods, including ones that not only convincingly mimic meats but grow real meat. 

There are plenty of enticing startup investment opportunities here. I’m keeping a close eye on this space and will let you know if any good ones pop up.