Memphis Meats is one of the newest—but most promising—contenders in the race to produce animal-free meat.
Memphis Meats, a bio-tech startup based in San Francisco, made headlines this week with the unveiling of both its first product and its business plan to make animal agriculture obsolete. “This is absolutely the future of meat,” Memphis Meats CEO Uma Valeti told The Wall Street Journal. “We plan to do to the meat industry what the car did to the horse and buggy. Cultured meat will completely replace the status quo and make raising animals to eat them simply unthinkable.” The company says its first round of products will include hot dogs, sausages, burgers, and meatballs but will eventually grow to other meat foods, including pork, all in a process it says produces up to 90 percent less greenhouse emissions and would spare billions of animal lives a year. The business also sets itself apart from other lab-grown meat companies with its aggressive timeline—it says it will be selling in the next three to four years. Similar to all in-vitro meat production, small amounts of animal cells are needed to start the culturing process. Memphis Meats’ process includes using fetal bovine serum—a nutrient-rich cocktail extracted from unborn calves’ blood that is popular in cultured meat production because of its resulting low levels of antibodies and high amounts of growth factors. To move toward removing animals from the equation entirely, Memphis Meats told The Wall Street Journal that it is planning to develop a plant-based alternative to the serum in the near future. The company also gave a nod to its namesake when discussing one of the first challenges it plans on undertaking: distributing to Memphis barbecue restaurants.