“This is real meat directly from animal cells,” says Memphis Meats CEO Uma Valeti. “People who love meat for thousands of years immediately recognize this as meat. In fact, cell-based meat is called the holy grail of the food industry. This is meat and when people taste it that’s when the magic happens. If someone is a vegetarian for environmental or ethical reasons well here is meat where you can produce it by detaching meat production from slaughter for the first time ever.”
Uma Valeti, Co-Founder and CEO of Memphis Meats, discusses how the company is going to revolutionize meat production with lab-grown cell-based meats that could eliminate the raising and slaughtering of billions of animals globally. Valeti was interviewed on Bloomberg:
Lab Grown: “In Just Three Weeks We Get Delicious Meat”
Memphis Meats is a food company that is growing meat, poultry, seafood directly from animal cells. We take high-quality animal cells from the animals that are typically on the table as meat or poultry and we identify the cells that can renew themselves. They are there in the meat because cells continue to renew and double naturally. What we do is identify the high-quality cells that will make the cut into producing delicious meat. We isolate the cells, whether it’s cows, chickens, pigs, or ducks, and then we put them in a clean controlled environment where we feed them essential nutrients.
These are very familiar with what a baby calf would eat like vitamins, amino acids, fatty acids, minerals, oxygen, and sugars. In a matter of three to six weeks, we get delicious meat that is harvested and cooked just like you would handle meat. The entire process, the efficiency of it, getting from the first cell to meat being harvested is just amazing. We’ve done a lot of products. We’ve done beef, chicken, duck, and a number of other species.
Meat Production Without Slaughtering Animals
This is real meat directly from animal cells. People who love meat for thousands of years immediately recognize this as meat. In fact, cell-based meat is called the holy grail of the food industry. It’s something that is part of our culture whether you grow up in India, China, the US, or anywhere in the world. We celebrate the tradition of growing and eating meat at almost every gathering that we have.
When we think of our potential customers we see very high interest from people who are 55 and under, Millenials and Gen Z’s. That interest is about 60-70 percent anytime someone asks them if they are ready to eat cell-based meat. But it’s very interesting that even in those that are over 55 the interest is 50 plus percent. That’s something that we were really surprised to see. It actually makes sense. This is meat and when people taste it that’s when the magic happens.
It’s also blurring the definition of who’s a vegetarian or vegan. If someone is a vegetarian for environmental or ethical reasons well here is meat where you can produce it by detaching meat production from slaughter for the first time ever.
We Introduced the (Cell-Based) Beef Meatball in 2016
We started the company about three years ago. If you think about it, in 2015 or 2016 this was still thought of as science fiction. One of the things we thought of as a startup is not to be in stealth mode. Almost every startup would love to start in stealth mode and introduce their product when ready. We recognize that this is new and for some people, it can be weird. That’s why we started talking about it really early.
In order for us to demystify this for anyone who thinks about cell-based meat or clean meats, they have to experience this. They have to come and see it be cooked, smell it in front of them, and then taste it. Our goal as a company is to really get out there and educate consumers as quickly as possible. Why we are doing this? How we can do this? What we are doing? So far, the reception we have received has been tremendous.
This started when we introduced the beef meatball (in 2016). We can also do it with multiple species. We picked two of the most popular species in the world. For example, chicken is the most popular in the US. We did southern fried chicken and we started showing the fibers when someone cuts into it. Then we picked duck because we wanted to show that this is actually very relevant globally. More duck is eaten in China than the rest of the world combined. We started showing duck breasts and how it could grill and you could get the experience of that.
Focused On Showing What We Can Do With Very Desirable Species
This is not for everyone right away because they have to get comfortable with this. They have to see their friends and family eat it. Our goal is to get it into the market as quickly as possible. In the last three years, our entire focus was to start showing that we can do it with very desirable species. We are in the process now of building a pilot plant and starting to scale production. We plan to be to market in the near future.
The consumer really cares where the food comes from. That’s something that is a very clear trend in the last few years. It’s pretty clear that consumers want to feel excited about the process of how food gets there and not merely tolerate the system in place. I’d say that with the current system of raising 70 billion animals we are merely tolerating it. If given the option of producing meat directly without raising and slaughtering animals and someone can experience that, that’s amazing.