In many areas of our daily lives, technological progress has advanced exponentially over the last few centuries, but in others it hasn’t. Growing food is still basically the same process that it always has been, albeit on a much larger industrial scale and with the addition of good ol’ toxic fertilizers and pesticides. However, with so much talk of climate change, resource scarcity, and genetic modification gone awry, it’s no wonder that scientists are beginning to look into alternative means for growing food in order to save our planet.
Meat, in particular, is frequently cited as one of the most wasteful food products due to the amounts of energy wasted in the production process and the dangerous effects livestock flatulence has on our atmosphere. Luckily, some of the world’s most high profile venture capitalists have stepped in and invested in a company which wants to re-think the way we produce meat. Just this week, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, and a host of other investors including Kimbal Musk (the lesser-known of the Musk brothers) have invested $17 million in Memphis Meats, a company bent on creating hellish-sounding but ethical animal-free meat from stem cells.
Uma Valeti, co-founder and CEO of Memphis Meats, says that their product isn’t about changing what people eat, but about preserving existing diets in light of environmental strain by creating 'clean meat.' With this new round of investment, he’s confident they can do just that:
The world loves to eat meat, and it is core to many of our cultures and traditions. Meat demand is growing rapidly around the world. We want the world to keep eating what it loves. However, the way conventional meat is produced today creates challenges for the environment, animal welfare and human health. These are problems that everyone wants to solve, and we can solve them by bringing this incredible group of partners under one tent.
You may not have heard of Memphis Meats yet, but that’s likely about to change. The San Francisco-based food science laboratory has for years been on the forefront of research into meat substitutes, or rather animal substitutes, er um, well language doesn’t do a good job of describing their products because there’s never been anything like what Memphis Meats is trying to produce.
The laboratory is aiming to produce real meat - actual delicious animal muscle tissue - using stem cells harvested from livestock rather than animals themselves. The meat is ‘grown’ in a lab without the need to slaughter a whole animal just to get its delicious nuggets or tenders or whatever other delicious animal parts people like to eat. Memphis Meats is pretty secretive about its process, and for good reason. Imagine a room full of steaks hanging from pulsating red vines and you get the picture. At least that’s what I hope it looks like. In reality, the meat is likely grown in petri dishes inside sterile incubators.
Bill Gates is known for his philanthropy, having invested in many technologies and organizations seeking to build a better future for all of humanity. If he’s onboard with Memphis Meats’ creepy mystery meat, chances are we’ll all be eating their stem cell burgers soon enough. I’ll take stem cell steaks over bug burgers any day.