An unsustainable demand for meat has led to companies looking for alternative solutions to conventional farming methods in order to change the way we eat and think about meat. For biotechs in particular – given recent advancements in technology – it has presented an opportunity to further explore lab-grown meat. In this article, we take a look at some of the top cultured meat companies driving the shift towards sustainable food systems.
Cultured meat is grown using cells acquired from animals by biopsy without the animal being harmed. These harvested cells are then placed in test tubes or bioreactors with a growth medium, which contains nutrients for the cells to grow and multiply. Eventually, the cells form muscle fibers, resulting in ‘lab-grown meat’.
Since the world was introduced to the first lab-grown burger in 2013 – developed by Mark Post, co-founder and chief scientific officer (CSO) of Mosa Meat – the cultured meat sector has grown enormously, with investors increasingly more likely to fund cultured meat startups. A recent report predicted that the global cultured meat market will be worth $2.1 billion by 2033, with that figure increasing to $13.7 billion by 2043.
So far, Singapore is the only country where lab-grown meats can be legally sold, but with two recent safety approvals from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it looks like the U.S. could be next in line to approve the sale of cultured meat.
In no particular order, here are six cultured meat companies making waves in the industry.
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Headquarters: Maastricht, The Netherlands
Mosa Meat is a Netherlands-based food technology company aiming to reshape the global food system by pioneering a ‘cleaner, kinder way of making beef’. It produces its cultured meat by collecting myosatellite cells from cows and growing them in a lab, where the cells merge naturally, forming fibers that eventually grow to 800 million strands of tissue from a single sample.
As mentioned previously, company co-founder Mark Post was behind the world’s first hamburger made from cultured meat, which was unveiled at a news conference in London in 2013. The burger, made from 20,000 muscle fibers grown from cow stem cells, took three months to make and came at a cost of €250,000 ($330,000), financed by Google co-founder Sergey Brin.
One of Mosa Meat’s main focuses has been bringing down the production costs of cultured meat to make it more affordable and accessible for consumers. In March 2023, the cultured meat company announced that it had signed a Letter of Intent with its investor Nutreco – a global leader in animal nutrition and aqua feed – to develop a cell feed supply chain. This will help to lower costs through the use of food-grade ingredients – instead of pharma-grade ingredients – in basal media (cell feed).
Added to this, the company also announced its next phase of expansion in October 2022, with a new industrial production development center near its existing facility in Maastricht, enabling larger production quantities of meat.
Eat Just (GOOD Meat)
Headquarters: Alameda, California
Eat Just has a cultured meat division called GOOD Meat, which mainly focuses on growing chicken. It became the first ever cultured meat company to have its product approved for sale when it received regulatory approval to market its lab-grown chicken in Singapore in 2020.
More recently, GOOD Meat became the second startup to receive a ‘no questions’ letter from the FDA. This means the FDA has affirmed that the company’s cultivated chicken is safe to eat, bringing the company closer to commercialization in the U.S..
In 2022, it was announced that GOOD Meat signed a seven-year deal with bioprocess equipment specialist ABEC to design, manufacture, install and commission the industry’s largest known bioreactors for producing avian and and mammalian cell-based meat. In January 2023, plans were announced to install a 6,000-liter bioreactor at its new facility in Singapore, due to open this year.
Headquarters: Berkeley, California
Formerly known as Memphis Meats, UPSIDE Foods was the first company to be granted FDA-approval for its cultivated chicken in 2022, after receiving a ‘no questions’ letter indicating that the FDA had accepted UPSIDE Foods’ conclusion that its chicken is safe to eat. The company now has to await approval from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) before it can serve its products to consumers.
The company cultivated the world’s first lab-grown beef meatball, and in 2017, produced the world’s first cultivated chicken and duck meat. In 2021, it unveiled its new cultivated meat production facility in the U.S., EPIC, containing custom-made, patented cultivators that can produce over 50,000 pounds of cultured meat.
In 2017, the company closed its $17 million series A funding round with support from Bill Gates and Richard Branson. Meanwhile, it received $161 million in its series B funding round in 2020, and $400 million in its latest series C round, which is the largest funding round in the cultivated meat industry to date. This brought UPSIDE Foods’ valuation to over $1 billion, which will help to accelerate its path to commercialization.
Headquarters: Rehovot, Israel
Believer Meats – previously named Future Meat – is on a mission to make it possible for all future generations to eat meat without harming animals or the environment by using non-GMO technology which it claims enables it to achieve higher-density cell cultures and more efficient media use than other cultured meat startups. The company is developing a range of cell-based products, including hamburgers, chicken breast and kebab meat.
Making cultured meat products accessible and affordable is one of Believer Meat’s main aims, and its efficient growth process allows it to produce cultivated meat at a similar cost to conventionally-farmed meat. In fact, in 2021, the company announced it could make almost a pound of cultivated chicken for $7.70, with a 110-gram chicken breast costing $1.70 to make.
Also in 2021, Believer Meats raised €308 million ($347 million) in a series B financing round, which at the time, marked the largest ever investment in cultured meat, just three years after the company’s launch. The company is currently in the process of constructing its first U.S. commercial facility in Wilson, North Carolina, which, at 200,000-square-foot, will be the biggest cultured meat production center in the world.
Headquarters: London, U.K.
Founded in 2019 by four students in the Life Sciences and Bioengineering departments of Imperial College London, Multus Biotechnology is a cultured meat company looking to develop high-performance growth media formulations at an affordable price to cultivate cells. It utilizes a combination of data science and automation to screen its library of growth media ingredients.
The company seeks to overcome the technical challenge within the cultured meat industry of reaching scale and price parity with farmed products. By focusing on the discovery of novel ingredients, the company can build a sustainable supply chain of scalable and affordable ingredients, using production processes which have already been widely adopted.
Multus Biotechnology’s next-generation growth media ingredients and formulations form the building blocks of cellular agriculture, enabling the production of animal products using cells instead of the animal itself. Its team of scientists and engineers believe that tackling the shortcomings of conventional animal farming is vital in securing a sustainable future.
In January 2023, the company closed a £7.9 million ($9.5 million) series A funding round, led by Mandi Ventures, an early-stage venture capital fund. The funding will allow Multus Biotechnology to build a world-first production growth media facility in the UK.
Headquarters: Kiryat Shmona, Israel
BioBetter Ltd. is another cultivated meat company looking to relieve the high costs in the sector, as well as tackle the limited availability of growth factors, which play a crucial part in enabling cells to multiply. The company’s vision involves using its green technology to supply food, reduce animal cruelty, and make a positive environmental impact.
It has a unique method of doing this, harnessing the advantages of tobacco plants by turning them into bioreactors to create sustainable animal-free growth factors. It has also developed a purification method that enables cost-efficiency in the unlimited production-scale of proteins. This botanical development process could allow the company to rapidly advance its commercialization.
In its series A funding round in 2022, BioBetter received $10 million, led by Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP), with additional investment from Milk and Honey Ventures and the Israeli Innovation Authority (IIA). The funding will allow the company to move to a larger pilot facility in the Tel Hai Industrial Park, which in turn will help to increase its tobacco plant processing capacity.