Globally we have become reliant on animals as a food production technology. People are becoming more aware that we need to improve the sustainability of the global food system to help solve our climate and extinction crises.
The livestock sector generates at least a seventh of global greenhouse gas emissions and requires about one-third of all freshwater.
Venture-capital money is pouring in, and the global faux-meat market is projected to reach a value of $8.1 billion by 2026, according to Allied Market Research.
The faux-meat market can be split into two types, currently available plant-based meats and currently in production lab-grown meats. Below are details of the current leaders in this industry that are getting major funding.
Plant-based meat startups:
By shifting from animal-based meat to plant-based meat, the four growing global issues: human health, climate change, constraints on natural resources and animal welfare can be positively impacted.Impossible Foods is already considered the top environmental startup and market leader. Established in 2011 the company was created to assist consumers in working towards halting climate change.
In 2019 they won the United Nations Momentum for Change Award for Planetary Health. Proving there is a market for plant-based meat.
Total funding: $674M
Last funding round: May 2019, $300M SERIES E
Their signature product, the Impossible™ Burger was created in 2016. Looking and cooking like ground beef from cows, but made entirely from plant-based ingredients. It is now served in over 17,000 restaurants including fast food outlets like Burger King. With 90% of these burgers being sold to non-vegetarians.
- Compared to a traditional beef burger, the Impossible™ Burger requires 96% less land (viable habitat), 87% less freshwater, while generating 89% fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
More recently the company has released Impossible™ Pork and Impossible™ Sausage made from plants and although the flavour is reported to be nearly like the real thing, the texture could do with a little work. But it's a great start!
Established in 2009, Beyond Meat is one of the fastest-growing food companies in the United States, offering a portfolio of revolutionary plant-based meats made from simple ingredients without GMOs, bioengineered ingredients, hormones, antibiotics, or cholesterol. Delivering the meaty experience craved without the compromise.
Beyond Meat’s brand commitment, Eat What You Love™, represents a strong belief that there is a better way to feed our future and that the positive choices we all make, no matter how small, can have a great impact on our personal health and the health of our planet.
As of September 26, 2020, Beyond Meat had products available at approximately 122,000 retail and foodservice outlets in over 80 countries worldwide.
Total funding: $139M
Last funding round: October 2018, $50M SERIES H; May 2019, IPO
Select Investors: Tyson Foods, Obvious Ventures, Bill Gates
Their products offer greater or equal protein levels than their animal counterparts, no cholesterol, less saturated fat, and no antibiotics or hormones.
- Compared to a ¼ lb. U.S. beef burger, the Beyond Burger® requires 93% less land (viable habitat), 99% less freshwater, 46% less energy to create, while generating 90% fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
Last month BeyondMeat unveiled two new versions of the Beyond Burger® which feature "an enhanced meaty flavour, with an even better nutritional profile". These are expected to launch in the USA in early 2021.
Lab-grown meat startups:
It is without doubt that plant-based diets eliminate the harmful effects of livestock farming, and it is exciting to see the growing popularity of plant-based foods. However, not all people will be happy to become vegetarian or vegan. There are startups out there that realise this and they are looking at every possible avenue of replacing livestock farming for all consumers, this includes cultured meat.
Based in Berkeley, CA, Memphis Meats is developing methods to produce meat directly from animal cells, without the need to breed or slaughter animals.
Founded in 2015, the company released the world’s first cell-based meatball in February 2016 and the world’s first cell-based poultry in March 2017. It aims to bring to the market delicious, real meat that is significantly better for the environment, animals and public health, while claiming a share of the $1.4 trillion global market for meat.
Memphis Meats has now raised more than $180 million in funding, including the most recent Series B round of $161 million. This is the largest funding round in the cell-based meat industry. Investors include Bill Gates (who has also invested in Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat) and Richard Branson.
Richard Branson says: “I am proud to invest once again in Memphis Meats, the world's leading cell-based meat company. In the next few decades I believe that cell-based meat will become a major part of our global meat supply. I cannot wait for that day!”
Total funding: $180M
Last funding round: January 2019, Series B
Select Investors: Tyson Foods, New Crop Capital, Bill Gates, Richard Branson.
The company’s goal is to feed 10 billion people by 2050, and countless more beyond that, while preserving the environment and offering consumers additional choices in meat, poultry and seafood.
Mosa Meat is a cultured meat start-up based in Maastricht, The Netherlands. They created the world's first cultured hamburger - that is, real meat grown directly from animal cells rather than raising and slaughtering an animal. Having proven the concept, they launched Mosa Meat (a spin-out from Maastricht University) to develop commercial products and introduce them to the market.
Their mission and driving motivation are to revolutionise the way meat is produced so the soaring demand can be satisfied with meat products that are healthier, better for the environment and kinder to animals.The process of making cultured meat (also known as clean meat) is similar to making livestock meat, except the cells grow outside the animal’s body. See details here... very interesting!
From one sample from a cow, they can produce 800 million strands of muscle tissue (enough to make 80,000 quarter pounders). When all these strands are layered together the meat product is created.
The meat can then be processed using standard food technologies, for example by putting them through a meat grinder to make ground beef.
Total funding: $82.7M
Last funding round: $75M SERIES B
Select Investors: Target Global, Bell Group Food, Mitsubishi Corp.
Mosa Meat is currently entering a new phase of preparation for the introduction of commercial products, and gearing up to sell them across the globe.
In the next few years, they will be focused on obtaining regulatory approval for the sale of cultured meat, actually scaling up production (including the construction of a pilot factory), and introducing their first products to market, aiming for them to be widely available in supermarkets and restaurants.
What has to be noted is that these meat alternatives are being aimed at the non-vegetarian market.
The vegetarians are already happily enjoying their Bean and Falafel burgers so have little desire to have a burger that closely resembles meat.
There are meat lovers out there that have come to realise that the meat market is having too big an impact on our climate. And so these startups are doing great things to assist these non-vegetarians to help them reduce the impact their preferred diet is having on the planet.
I'd happily switch to a well-flavoured and textured meat alternative, so I for one am happy that these startups are passionately working towards this goal.