Global food producer invests in Israeli lab meat technology

Global food producer invests in Israeli lab meat technology

Arkansas-based meat processing giant Tyson Foods leads investment round in Jerusalem startup Future Meat Technologies, a maker of meat from cells

Future Meat Technologies' first cultured chicken kebab on grilled eggplant and tahini sauce at the Machneyuda restaurant (Courtesy)
Future Meat Technologies' first cultured chicken kebab on grilled eggplant and tahini sauce at the Machneyuda restaurant (Courtesy)

One of the world’s largest food producers is betting on Israeli technology to find ways to grow meat without raising or slaughtering animals.

Israeli startup Future Meat Technologies said Wednesday that it raised $2.2 million in a seed investment round co-led by Tyson Ventures, the venture capital arm of Tyson Foods, Inc. Tyson Foods, based in Arkansas, US, is a Fortune 100 company and a processor and marketer of chicken, beef and pork.

Future Meat Technologies is a Jerusalem-based biotechnology company that seeks to create cultured meat directly from animal cells through the production of fat and muscle cells, the core building blocks of meat, in a cost-effective manner.

In addition to Tyson Ventures, the Neto Group, one of the largest food conglomerates in Israel; S2G Ventures, a Chicago-based venture capital fund; BitsXBites, China’s first food technology venture capital fund; and Agrinnovation, an Israeli investment fund founded by Yissum, the technology transfer company of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, also participated in the funding round, along with New York-based HB Ventures.

Israeli chef Uri Navon mixing ingredients with Future Meat Technologies’ “clean meat” (Courtesy)

Currently, cultured meat has a production price of about $10,000 per kilogram, Prof. Yaakov Nahmias, the Israeli founder and chief scientist of the startup said. “It is difficult to imagine cultured meat becoming a reality with a current production price,” he said in a statement.  “We redesigned the manufacturing process until we brought it down to $800 per kilogram today, with a clear roadmap to $5-10 per kg by 2020.”

Tyson’s investment in Future Meat is a push to explore new ways of producing protein, Justin Whitmore, executive vice president, Corporate Strategy, and chief sustainability officer of Tyson Foods said in the statement.

“This is our first investment in an Israel-based company,” he said. “We continue to invest significantly in our traditional meat business but also believe in exploring additional opportunities for growth that give consumers more choices.”

Animal fat produces the unique aroma and flavor of meat that “makes our mouth water,” noted Nahmias. Future Meat Technologies is at the moment the only company that can produce this fat without killing animals and without any genetic modification. “I want my children to eat meat that is delicious, sustainable and safe,” said Nahmias. “This is our commitment to future generations.”

Global demand for protein and meat is growing at a rapid pace, with an estimated worldwide market of more than a trillion dollars, including explosive growth in China, the firm said.

The world’s first cultured chicken kebab. The cultured chicken was developed by Israeli startup Future Meat Technologies (Courtesy)

“We believe that making a healthy, non-GMO (genetically modified) product that can meet this demand is an essential part of our mission,” said Rom Kshuk, CEO of Future Meat Technologies.

Cultured meat production may also be eco-friendlier than traditional meat production, he said.

Future Meat Technologies expects to use the funds to set up its engineering activities and increase its biological research. The company is currently recruiting engineers, chefs and scientists.

Future Meat’s technology is based on Nahmias’ research at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and is licensed through Yissum.

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