Cell-cultured meat refers to meat grown in labs, using cells from live animals. Having emerged from cell-culture applications such as antibody protein therapeutics, cell-based therapies, and regenerative medicine, cell-cultured meat technology promises sustainable and humane alternatives to slaughtered meat.
The industry still faces multiple challenges on the regulatory front and with regard to scalability of industrial production due to high costs which have delayed mass commercialization. Despite these challenges, the first cell-cultured meat products are beginning to enter the market with Eat Just’s “chicken bites” being approved for sale in Singapore in December 2020.
More recently, the meat shortage in the US led by the closure of meat processing plants during the Covid-19 pandemic has drawn attention to cell-cultured meat production, a more sustainable method of sourcing meat proteins with a minimum impact on the environment. Further, the spread of zoonotic diseases such as salmonella and e. coli in the US and the recent Swine Flu outbreaks in China will likely fuel demand for animal-free agriculture.
Cell-cultured meat has a more secure, efficient, and resilient production system compared to traditional meat production in the US that also gives more control over end products and waste.
In the week of April 13-19 2020, daily cattle slaughter fell by nearly 24% year-over-year (YoY) and pig slaughter by 13% YoY.
Most of the startups in the cell-cultured space are manufacturers of finished imitation beef and pork products with a smaller group focusing on the production of specialty items such as wagyu beef, bluefin tuna meat, and foie gras. A limited number of traditional meat processing and convenience food manufacturing incumbents have begun investing in the cell-cultured meat space.
The industry’s supply chain is also gradually taking shape, and new startups and incumbents developing supply side expertise should retain a significant advantage as the industry progresses.
The main disruptors aren’t displacing incumbent pure-play cell-based meat producers so much as major traditional livestock and, to a lesser extent, plant-based meat producers active in this space. The top three startups in terms of funding–Eat Just, Memphis Meat, and Mosa Meat–have all unveiled a product and delivered technical proofs of concept sufficient to garner over USD 470 million in combined funding.
Eat Just leads the industry in funding with USD 220 million, followed by USD 181 million for Memphis Meat and USD 76 million for Mosa Meat. Eat Just has already seen commercial success with its plant-based egg substitute “JUST Egg” and developed market ready cell-cultured chicken nuggets in 2018, which fueled interest from investors. Startups have yet to master industrial-scale production and competitive pricing relative to slaughtered meat, thus far limiting paths to commercialization.
Based in Israel, Future Meat Technologies develops hardware and cell lines for the manufacturing of cell-cultured meat, with intentions of commercializing its manufacturing hardware and techniques.
Future Meat Technologies uses fibroblast cells that can be triggered with small molecules to develop either fat or muscle cells. Fat and muscle cells are cultured in a unique bioreactor that removes the waste material from the media, allowing Future Meat Technologies to recycle parts of the media with the aim of reducing feed media input by as much as 50%. The startup has replaced FBS with molecules derived from Chinese Hamster Ovaries (CHO), reducing production costs. The startup has managed to reduce production costs to USD 150 per pound for chicken and USD 200 per pound for beef. According to founder Yaakov Nahmias, a refrigerator-sized bioreactor has the capacity to produce approximately half a ton of muscle and fat every 14 days. In May 2021, the startup reduced the cost of cell-cultured chicken by 50%; USD 4 per quarter-pound serving from USD 7.50 to achieve price parity with animal counterparts in eight years. Future Meat Technologies intends to further slash down the cost to below USD 2 and launch its product in the US by 2022.
In June 2021, Future Meat Technologies opened what the company is calling the world's first “industrial” cell-cultured meat facility. The facility has a production capacity of 500 kg of cultured meat per day (equivalent to around 5,000 hamburgers); and currently produces cultured chicken, pork, and lamb, with beef production expected to begin soon. The startup is in the process of approving the facility with regulatory agencies and is also looking at several locations in the US for future expansion. Future Meat Technologies’ first product is expected in 2022 as a blend of 45-60% cell-cultured chicken and/or lamb and 40-55% plant-based meat. Besides US and Europe, Future Meat Technologies has plans to debut in Asia, with China and India as its primary markets.
In its latest Series A funding round in February 2021, the company raised USD 26.8 million in convertible note funding from S2G Ventures, ADM Capital, Emerald Technology Ventures, Manta Ray Ventures, and Bits x Bites, among others. The proceeds are expected to be used to accelerate Future Meat’s cultivated meat production and expand its research and development activities and team. In December 2021, the Future Meat Technologies revealed it is in the process of raising USD 320 million in venture funding, valuing the company at USD 600 million pre-money.
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Cell-cultured meat production is a novel technology that only a few startups have achieved, and as such, incumbents in the industry have not yet demonstrated much expertise in the field. Hence, most incumbents have entered the space through strategic investments and partnerships. On the other hand, cell-cultured meat startups lack the expertise in the relevant supply chains, most notably in raw material sourcing, which has in turn driven the need for partnerships with incumbents.
Tyson Foods is the market leader in US meat and poultry production with around 22% and 21% of each market, respectively. In 2016, the company launched Tyson Ventures LLC with an initial fund of USD 150 million. The fund’s mission of investing in sustainable food brands led to investments in cell-cultured meat startups Memphis Meats and Future Meat Technologies.
The venture fund also invested in Beyond Meat, but exited its 6.52% stake in April 2019—one month before its May 2019 IPO. In September 2019, Tyson Ventures invested in New Wave Foods, a startup developing plant-based shrimp. Tyson Ventures has also invested in Big Idea Ventures, a seed fund making investments in alternative protein startups.
No investor data is available