Any discussion on gut health would be incomplete without talk of the food Americans seem to love the most: meat. Americans love meat. Despite rising concerns about the environmental impact of the meat industry, roughly a third of our calories come from meat. And though vegetarianism and veganism are becoming more and more “hip”, less than 5 percent of the population ascribes to these diets. But one thing might be changing that. Artificial meat options and lab-grown meat are innovations that could potentially disrupt the meat industry. Based on the number of startups in this field, a booming meatless meat industry might well be on the horizon.
Can the Artificial Meat Industry Bring Down a Giant?
Before talking about artificial meat options, it’s worth looking at the current meat industry itself. In the U.S., the average per capita meat intake is nearly 200 pounds per year. Globally, over 300 million metric tons are produced, with this figure expected to rise to 450 million by 2050. This accounts for nearly $200 billion in annual sales.
Meanwhile, lab-grown meats and other meatless meat industries are expected to reach $6 billion in revenue in the coming years.
Indeed, competing with the meat industry appears to be a formidable challenge.
However, the meat industry is not without its own concerns. In total, the meat industry accounts for about 14 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, compared to artificial meat production, the meat industry uses five times as much water and ten times as much land. As the global population expands and as environmental resources are constrained, these numbers reflect major issues—not counting the potential risk for pathogens and contaminants that many meat products have.
The Evolving Sector of Lab-Grown Meats and Artificial Meat Alternatives
While overall meat consumption is expected to increase in coming years, that doesn’t mean that alternatives are not available. In fact, dozens of new startups are actively bringing lab-grown meats and other artificial meat options to market. From insect protein to plant-based offerings, artificial meat products are ever-increasing on store shelves. Plus, innovative technologies are allowing lab-grown meats, or “clean meats,” to be developed. With this in mind, we present a list of some of these bold businesses exploring this new market sector.
- Exo – Based in Brooklyn, New York, this company is a producer of insect-based protein products. These products include cricket flour, which is used to make protein bars and other protein-rich foods. Overall, Exo has received over $5.2 million in funding to date.
- All Things Bugs – This Oklahoma-based startup focuses on using insect protein to address global nutrition needs of the future. Insect powder is being used as a base for many recipes in this pursuit. Having received over $4.1 million in funding, this startup is well on its way to providing a solution to the global food sourcing problem.
- Memphis Meats – Established in 2015, this artificial meat company produces clean meats without antibiotics, hormones or waste products. Through lab-grown meat production methods, animal cells are grown in cultures without the risk for bacterial infection. Memphis Meats expects to offer their products to consumers in 2019.
Other Companies Offering Lab-Grown Meats and Artificial Meat Alternatives
- Just – Formerly known as Hampton Creek, this startup also produces clean artificial meat alternatives. In addition, the company has over 40 plant-based products as well as an open-source plant protein database. Among the thousands of plant proteins present, more than 90 percent have yet to be explored for use in foods.
- Perfect Day Foods – Through biotechnology, this company uses programmed microflora to produce milk proteins. However, these milk proteins do not require pasteurization or refrigeration, and they have no bacterial growth risk. This animal-free milk can then be used to make cream, cheeses and yogurts as ideal sources of protein.
- Impossible Foods – This company is known for its artificial meat hamburger, the Impossible Burger, which has a patty that has 25 percent more protein than regular meat. In addition to using wheat and potato proteins to create a charred coating, the company uses coconut oil to mimic real beef fat. And heme is added to provide it a red color and a meat-like flavor.
Lab-Grown Meat — Coming Soon to a Store Near You
To say artificial meats will replace animal meat products is certainly a stretch. But the potential for these products to gain market share among protein food options is real.
While western societies seem to have a problem with insect protein, most of the world does not. As a matter of fact, 80 percent of all nations worldwide regularly eat insects for protein. And technological advances in developing lab-grown meats that are “clean” offer many advantages as well. As demand grows and resources become increasingly constrained, these artificial meat options will become more attractive. And various bold startups are well-positioned to take advantage of these trends.
For more on Bold Business’ gut health series, check out these stories on probiotics vs. cholesterol and indigestion. For more on lab-grown meat and meatless options, check out these stories the growing artificial meat industry and entomophagy.