- Aleph Farms, an Israeli company that grows meat from cattle cells, raised $12 million in a funding round led by VisVires New Protein. It included support from Cargill, Strauss Group and other venture capitalists.
- The company was founded in 2017 in partnership with the Israeli food-tech incubator The Kitchen. The injection of capital will allow Aleph to accelerate product development and transform its prototype into a commercial product, according to the release.
- "Strategic partners from the food industry are important because we need to build a sustainable ecosystem for cultured meat," Founder and Managing Partner of VisVires New Protein Matthieu Vermersch said in the release.
More of the meat industry seems to be coming around to the idea of cell-cultured products. This investment by Cargill marks its latest foray into cell-based meat. Cargill, the world's third-largest meat producer after Tyson Foods and JBS, has already been seriously investing in this new protein segment.
In 2017, Cargill invested in cultured meat company Memphis Meats, which produced the world's first cell-cultured meatball and chicken strip. The investment in Aleph Farms shows Cargill is ramping up its efforts in this sector. More big meat companies could follow its example in coming years.
Good Food Institute Executive Director Bruce Friedrich said in a statement emailed to Food Dive that Cargill’s investment in Aleph Farms is the beginning of a big growth period for the cell-based meat industry.
"Companies like Cargill recognize the immense investment opportunity to diversify their portfolios and reap the profits as this nascent industry takes form," he said. "As the cell-based meat industry matures into a revenue-generating industry, there will be room for investment on a much larger scale than what has been injected thus far."
This $12 million funding round bulks up Aleph's numbers and makes the startup one of the top cell-based meat companies globally. Since its founding in 2017, Aleph Farms has attracted investments from U.S. and European venture capital firms and received assistance from the Israel Institute of Technology and The Kitchen.
This new investment will allow Aleph to begin business plans moving toward a limited consumer product launch within three to five years. Currently, the company has only produced prototype steaks as proof-of-concept.
These investments come as the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations found that meat consumption is predicted to double by 2050. Although promising for the industry, the planet could be hard-pressed to accommodate such a production scale as it already strains under the pressure of climate change. Cell-cultured meat presents an alternative for meat lovers to continue to indulge while being sustainably minded.
Consumers aren't yet sure about lab-grown meat. An online survey last May revealed 40% of Americans would give lab-grown meat a try, but another more recent study showed while 66% of consumers would try it, only 27% would buy it. Even with consumer uncertainty, the prospect of disrupting the $200-billion meat industry by producing items that look and taste identical to conventional products — but appeal to sustainably minded consumers — is convincing meat manufacturers to continue investing in the new technology. And those investments are only getting bigger.
Research from The Good Food Institute shows there has been more than $73 million of investment into cell-based meat companies globally since 2015. In 2018 alone, $50 million was invested by global meat industry giants like Cargill and Tyson Foods. Last year, Tyson invested in Memphis Meats and Future Meat Technologies.
Still, there is a long way to go for cell-based meat to become mainstream. In 2017, Memphis Meats CEO Uma Valeti told The Wall Street Journal that his company can make a pound of cell-cultured meat for less than $2,400, down from $18,000 in 2016. To reach cost parity with grocery store meat products — at about $3 to $4 per pound, there is a lot of work to be done. Nevertheless, many in the industry seem to be confident a colossal shift is on the horizon.