We could be less than two years away from cell-based meat hitting shelves here in the U.S.
Lab-grown meat, a concept that's been in the works for a number of years, is closer than ever to becoming a reality, after Memphis Meats announced a $161 million investment round toward their pilot plant. Company officials hope the investment will make it possible to bring cell-based meat to consumers within 18 to 24 months.
And with the meat market projected to face higher demands in the coming years, the potential for innovation in the meat industry holds a lot of promise for food scarcity, safety, and accessibility.
Here's a rundown on how Memphis Meats makes their product, but essentially, they produce meats like beef and chicken by "feeding" and cultivating specific cells.
For their pilot plant, vice president of operations Steve Myrick told Food Dive they've found land in the Bay Area near their current location in Berkeley, California, that could house the plant (which is still in the design phase).
And for the meat to finally reach shelves, the company will have to get the green light from federal regulators. Memphis Meats' vice president of product and regulation Eric Shulze says they've been working with the FDA and USDA, "which is putting together a joint framework to oversee the cultured meat segment."
"I can say as a former regulator myself," Shulze says, "the U.S. government is working with incredible speed, diligence, and efficiency on bringing these products to market."
"We've found that those companies share our conviction that our food system needs to continue to innovate in order to feed humanity and to feed the growing demand for meat in the coming decades and that they see our technology as an important potential solution," Myrick adds. "So we're really eager to learn from them as we look to scale up our production and build a global supply chain."
Memphis Meats' senior manager of communications and operations David Kay adds that cell-based meat could be part of the solution to meat demand, and further, those involved in the meat industry (whether it be livestock or cell-based meat) are focused on common ground.
Some other notable brands on the cell-based meat front include Just and Future Meat Technologies. According to Food Dive, Just is working on getting their lab-grown chicken nuggets on the market, and Future Meat is working on a pilot plant of their own.
And with plenty of demand for meat (and meat alternatives), "We think that this is a truly enormous opportunity that is large enough to sustain multiple companies and to allow multiple companies to be successful," Kay adds.
Between rising populations and rising demand for meat, we're always happy to see innovation in the name of sustainability. And if it's between lab-grown meat or insects, well, we'll let you take your pick. But we'll definitely be keeping our eyes out for the cell-based meats soon to come.