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Animal-free meat, dairy firms raise funds

Memphis Meats, Ripple Foods attract corporate and venture investors

by Melody M. Bomgardner
January 31, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 6

This photo is of a plate of sliced, fried chicken breast made from lab-grown chicken cells by Memphis Meats.
Credit: Memphis Meats
These morsels of southern fried chicken were made in a bioreactor from chicken cells by Memphis Meats.

Two start-ups selling different approaches to taking the animals out of animal food products attracted diverse backers last week. The more futuristic company, Memphis Meats, is developing meat and poultry products from animal cells raised in bioreactors. The more conventional firm, Ripple Foods, already has its new dairy replacements, which it makes from dried yellow peas, available for consumers at Whole Foods and other grocery stores.

Memphis Meats, which debuted its lab-grown chicken last year, has brought on as an investor the new venture arm of chicken behemoth Tyson Foods. Tyson CEO Tom Hayes acknowledged on the firm’s websitethat “it might seem counterintuitive” for a company like his to invest in so-called alternative proteins. But he explains that technical innovation is required to sustainably meet the growing world population’s need for protein and calories.

Tyson did not disclose the amount of its investment. Last year, Memphis raised $17 million in a first round of funding, led by venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson. Memphis Meats says it hopes to bring its products to market in 2021. But first it must lower production costs from about $20,000 per kg to a cost similar to regular chicken, which is around $7 per kg.

Ripple Foods raked in $65 million in its third round of funding from Euclidean Capital, a fund owned by hedge fund billionaire James Simons, along with Khosla Ventures, Goldman Sachs, and the food and agriculture-focused S2G Ventures.

Ripple hopes to stand out from plant-based rivals like almond milk by appealing to the health-conscious. The firm claims its pea-extraction technology results in products that can compete with cow’s milk for protein, but contain less sugar and don’t taste like peas.


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