- Believer Meats, formerly known as Future Meat Technologies, broke ground Wednesday on what it claims will be the largest cultivated meat plant in the world in Wilson, North Carolina.
- The facility will be 200,000 square feet with the capacity to produce at least 10,000 metric tons (11,023 tons) of cultivated meat. Believer is investing $123.35 million in the facility, which will create more than 100 new jobs during the next three years.
- Many cultivated meat companies have said they plan to build commercial-scale facilities in the last year, but Believer is the first to actually break ground on one. A commercial-scale facility is needed to make enough meat to serve a sizable amount of consumers.
In the U.S., cultivated meat is quickly going from something that sounds like a science experiment to something that people will be able to eat in the near future.
Believer, which is based in Israel, announced it would be placing its commercial-scale plant in the U.S. when it closed its $347 million Series B funding round last December. The company said it chose Eastern North Carolina because of the area’s talent pool and the region’s reputation for integrating technological solutions to improve residents’ lives.
Believer has long been a leader in the cultivated meat space. The company, founded in 2018, aims to produce meat grown from cells both quickly and inexpensively. Believer uses fibroblasts, a quickly growing kind of connective tissue cell, to make its meat. It also has devised ways to clean and reuse the growth media for the cells, which increases its efficiency and lowers its costs.
As the company has improved its technology and scaled up with its pilot plant, which opened last year in Israel, it’s quickly reduced the cost of its products.
Believer is one of the best-capitalized companies in the cultivated meat space, having raised nearly $388 million in its lifetime, according to the firm. It’s attracted a lot of attention from Big Food, with ingredients and commodity giant Archer Daniels Midland and Tyson Foods investing.
In 2021, Nestlé announced it was working with Believer as it evaluates cultivated meat technologies and potential future products made from a hybrid of plant-based ingredients and cell-based meat.
Believer does not yet have regulatory approval to produce and sell cultivated meat anywhere, but co-founder Yaakov Nahmias has said the company has been in close contact with the FDA about gaining approval for years. The only place in the world where cultivated meat is on the market is Singapore, which approved Eat Just’s cultivated chicken in late 2019.
However, Believer may be getting closer to getting that green light. Last month, the FDA issued its first approval in the space: A no questions letter to Upside Foods for its cultivated chicken. The letter indicates regulators found nothing unsafe in Upside’s product. Upside’s facilities and products must now be approved by the USDA to go on the market.
While Believer is a different company with different processes than Upside Foods, the fact that the FDA has moved forward with one approval means that more may be on the way. And with construction underway on a place to make that meat in the U.S., it could actually not be that far off from consumers’ plates nationwide.