Courtesy of Memphis Meats

Memphis Meats is one of a few companies looking to bring animal-free meat products to the market.

Elisabeth Sherman
August 24, 2017

Lab-grown meat in grocery store aisles is inching closer to becoming a reality. Memphis Meats, which is already producing some of their lab-grown meat products, has announced that it’s raised a total of $17 million in its effort to bring what the industry is calling "cruelty-free" meat to the market.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the company, already enjoys private investment from Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE. But this “new round of investment” was thanks to the agriculture corporation Cargill.

Memphis Meats, founded in 2015, creates real meat from animal cells “without the need to feed, breed and slaughter actual animals,” and produces “90 percent less greenhouse gas emissions” than the typical animal farm, according to its website. The company has already been able to produce and test fried chicken, duck, and meatballs, all without butchering a physical animal. Last year, Food & Wine wrote about the process behind creating Memphis Meats products: At the time, making the meatballs, for instance, cost $18,000 and took up to three weeks, although CEO Uma Valenti was hopeful that the price would eventually come down. Still, that price tag was still a significant decrease from the first “test-tube burger” which cost $325,000 to make.

Valenti says he thinks that his products will take at least five years to reach the consumer market, and even longer than that for them to be sold at mass-market prices. Another company called SuperMeat predicts that its own lab-grown chicken will be available by 2021. Meanwhile, Hampton Creek’s CEO told Food & Wine that his company's lab-grown products will be for sale as early as 2018.

Meat going meatless, in whatever form that takes, is certainly on-trend as plant-based Impossible Burgers and Beyond Burgers continue to expand into more restaurants and retailers. At this point, the question is not if we will be eating lab-grown meat in our burgers and chicken nuggets, but when. With these companies getting cash infusions from powerful investors, you might be enjoying this sci-fi-sounding dish much sooner than you think.