Tyson Invests in Clean Meat Startup Memphis Meats

Tyson Ventures – venture arm of Tyson Foods – announced earlier this week they’ll be making a major investment in clean meat startup Memphis Meats.

The announcement further highlights growing interest in the business of clean meat. Once in the domain of science fiction, clean, safe, slaughter-free meat is quickly becoming a reality. And no company has done quite so much to make this possible more than Memphis Meats.

Memphis Meats is a biotechnology company on a mission. The company’s CEO, Uma Valeti, is a cardiologist, and co-founder Nicholas Genovese is a stem-cell biologist and a vegetarian. Together, they hope to use clean meat to make meat production kinder to the planet and its inhabitants.

Why Tyson?

At first, it may seem odd for Tyson to invest in non-animal meat. But to Memphis Meat CEO Valeti, the investment is not a surprise:

For the first time, we’re replacing meat with meat – not a meat alternative. That gets Tyson and Cargill enormously excited because they’re in the meat business. There’s the potential to transform feeding the world as we know it”

Interestingly, meat alternatives don’t scare Tyson either: in 2016, they invested $13 million in plant-based meat company Beyond Meat. As Justin Whitmore, head of Tyson Ventures, told Forbes magazine in a recent interview, “if disruptions take place in the way that food is going to be developed or delivered in protein, in particular, Tyson Foods is going to be there.”

Tyson seems quite comfortable investing in the future of food. As I’ve often said, these mega-corporations are not in animal agriculture to cause suffering, they are in it to make money. And if they can make “a killing” with no actual killing involved…they’ll be all over it. Fortunately, I think the corporations and the animal advocates are actually on the same side in this respect: both want to reduce needless waste and improve efficiency. And both clean meat and plant-based meat alternatives look like great ways to solve the problem in a way that works for everyone.

Raising Money, Lowering Costs

Memphis Meats is also leading the clean meat space in terms of fundraising. Prior to Tyson’s investment, To date, Memphis Meats has raised money from the likes of Cargill, Bill Gates and Richard Branson. According to Forbes, the company is currently valued at $300 million.

Having a decent valuation certainly helps when it comes to raising money. It also helps investors feel reassured about handing over funds. Especially since the product isn’t currently commercially viable (due to high costs).

While price is often cited as a major hurdle (lab-grown meat costs approximately $2400 a pound), it’s not a concern for those who believe this disruptive innovation is subject to exponential growth curves. Memphis Meat CEO Uma Valeti is confident the costs will come down dramatically in the next few years, saying “[a]t the end point, it will be significantly cheaper than conventional meat.”

Memphis Meats’ Clean Factory Farms of the Future will Harvest Cells, Not Animals

With proper investment and innovation, it’s entirely possible that there will still be factory farms in the future. But Memphis Meats Factories will be productive biotech labs. Instead of animals, they’ll cultivate cells into healthy, safe food for people (and animals!) to eat.

Interestingly, this isn’t far from what people are already asking for! According to a new poll from Sentience Institute (in cooperation with Ipsos Group), 47% of Americans would like to see slaughterhouses banned. But they still want to eat meat!

At first, this seems silly. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. You can’t eat animals and have them with you as friends. Or can you? Oddly, clean meat gives us an opportunity to do just that.

And as I always remind vegans, even if you don’t want to eat clean meat, I bet your cat will love it.

I’m truly excited and inspired to see what the future has in store for Memphis Meats. I firmly believe the future of meat will be animal free, and if companies like Tyson can see the opportunity there, it’s a good sign that future is closer than we think.

2 Responses to “Tyson Invests in Clean Meat Startup Memphis Meats

  • Canastenard
    2 weeks ago

    The remark about people’s distaste for slaughterhouses reminds me of people in France: more than half say they’re opposed to the forced feeding of ducks and geese, but at the same time the majority can’t imagine a Christmas meal without foie gras. This represents the cognitive dissonance marked by the contrast between the intense cruelty of foie gras production and its staple status as a festive food, and it’s crazy to think that it applies to all meat production in the other side of the Atlantic.

    • That’s an interesting parallel – I had no idea the French felt that way about gavage. I assumed they were more rational than the rest of us and just accepted it as part of the process. It’s comforting, in a way, to learn that cognitive dissonance is near universal. Hopefully, people will begin to realize that such useful fictions/forms of willful deception are unnecessary and outdated. Thanks for stopping by!

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