Some very rich people and influential companies want to help change the way meat is produced.
Memphis Meats produces what it calls ‘clean meat.’ Based in San Francisco, the company has produced edible beef, chicken and duck directly from animal cells without the need to raise or slaughter animals, according to a company statement. Well-known venture investors and meat-industry leaders have pledged money to help the company ramp up its methods and scale of production.
According to the company, it has received $17 million in Series A funding led by DFJ, a firm that has previously backed Tesla, SpaceX and Skype. The deal includes Cargill, Bill Gates, Richard Branson and other international venture capital groups. Gates is of course considered to be the richest man in the world, and Branson is a well-known billionaire businessman and personality.
To date, the company says it has raised $22 million.
In a cartoon on the company’s YouTube channel, the process in which one makes lab-grown meat is revealed, though it is explained in a very simplistic, non-detailed way.
According to the cartoon (which is filled with happy, friendly faces), cells are taken from the animal. From those cells, starter cells are identified and fed nutrients to grow muscle tissue, which in time becomes the desired meat. The facility in which this process takes place is compared to a brewery.
At the beginning and end of the cartoon, the viewer is reminded that the modern way of rearing animals for food inflicts harm on the environment, the animals and human health. The company promotes its clean meat as a solution to this ‘problem.’
By marketing its lab-meat products as ‘clean meat,’ the company’s marketing plan implies the other ways in which meat is made are ‘unclean.’ U.S. farmers and ranchers steward the land and are the frontline champions of environmental conservation efforts across much of rural America. That’s not unclean.
Most Americans and citizens of the advanced world don’t care or do not associate actual farming with the food they consume. This novel, ‘sterile’ approach to meat making developed by Memphis Meats blurs that association even further.
But a considerable number of consumers in the younger generations do want to know from where and in what ways their food is grown. Will these influential, food-conscious consumers accept meat grown in this so called ‘clean’ manner?
I believe in open and fair markets. We’ll see what consumers say. I can see this novel approach to meat production gaining traction in the market place, or becoming a good humanitarian endeavor to assist regions of the world where land, resources and logistics are limited.
I’d try the meat, but I’d try most anything once. But I prefer food that can be traced directly back to land. The way in which this company uses the word ‘clean’ shouldn’t become a synonym for ‘sustainable,’ and modern agricultural methods shouldn’t be directly or indirectly stamped as ‘unclean’ or ‘unsustainable.’