Meat substitutes and meat grown from meat cells could just be one of the biggest disruptors to the global economy in the years ahead. Some investors, including Bill Gates, reckon that clean meat, or meat not derived directly from raising and slaughtering animals, will be huge and are investing in ventures linked to these developments.
Meat substitutes from plant-based products aren’t anything new. Gates invested in a Californian venture called BeyondMeat back in 2015, and by that time the startup was already six years old. But what is now developing more rapidly is the concept of meat grown from animal cells.
An Israel-based startup called SuperMeat is developing the technology to create clean meat from chicken cells in a safe and controlled environment, external to the animal’s body. It’s attracting investors from a growing venture/private equity ecosystem around meat substitutes and humane animal treatment groups like Stray Dog Capital and New Crop Capital.
Another big player in the clean meat world is Memphis Meats, which like SuperMeat is developing a way to produce real meat from animal cells, without the need to feed, breed and slaughter actual animals. Memphis Meats made the headlines back in August last year when Gates along with Kimbal Musk, the brother of Elon, Virgin’s Richard Branson, and robotics entrepreneur Kyle Vogt all invested in the US-based company.
Another reason why clean meat is likely to be big is that traditional food companies are beginning to invest in the sector alongside the likes of Gates and Kimbal Musk. Tyson Foods, the huge family-owned food processor of chicken, pork and beef, has invested in BeyondMeat. And the German-based food company PHW Group has invested in SuperMeat.
This growing investor enthusiasm towards clean meat is being backed up by some serious intellectual heft. Published at the beginning of 2018 is a new book on the subject called Clean Meat: How Growing Meat Without Animals Will Revolutionize Dinner and the World. The book is by Paul Shapiro of the Humane Society of the US and has been highly recommended by Peter Singer, the Princeton-based moral philosopher and animal rights advocate.
Their support no doubt adds to the enthusiasm behind clean meat, but what’s driving investor interest more than anything is its commercial implications. With demand greater than ever for meat, as consumers in India and China eat more meat in their diets, clean meat will be an important means of satisfying this demand in the years ahead.
And the companies at the forefront of the clean meat revolution will be the biggest beneficiaries of the rising consumption of meat in these countries. They will also benefit from the demand in the West for more humane ways of producing meat, which will only grow in the years ahead.