- Hampton Creek officials told Global Meat News last week the company was talking with at least 10 global meat and feed companies in South America, Europe and Southeast Asia about licensing its lab-grown meat technology.
- These potential licensing agreements would help the San Francisco-based company be able to scale up production and keep costs down.
- The company's director of cellular agriculture told Global Meat News it had made "significant progress" in its journey to develop lab-grown meat. The first products — likely poultry — are still on track for a U.S. release at the end of 2018.
Many companies have been scrambling to make lab-grown "clean meat" an affordable reality, and none have succeeded yet. Memphis Meats, one of the players that's publicly been in the clean meat business the longest, can currently produce a pound of lab-grown chicken for about $3,800. And while this meat may be more sustainable environmentally, the price tag is too high for most consumers. According to company officials, Memphis Meats hopes to reach pricing parity with actual chicken — at about $3 to $4 a pound — by 2021.
When Hampton Creek announced its push toward lab grown meat in June, it said it could do so relatively inexpensively through licensing and its plant discovery program. The company claimed it would use scientific screening to find plant proteins that have the same functionality as more expensive animal-derived ingredients used by other producers to help grow meat cells. The company actually mentioned the beginnings of plans to license its R&D then, but officials did not provide any details at that time.
"Agreements will include investments in production facilities and access to licenses across major product categories," a company spokesman told Food Dive in an email over the weekend. "We own foundational global IP around clean meat today, and are developing additional IP around the media, cell line development and scaling up."
Not only does it make economic sense to license the technology to other producers, but it also meets needs from a supply-and-demand perspective. More people using the technology to make meat means there is more of it done the same way, similar to adding more factories. As demand for meat continues to climb — Hampton Creek believes global meat demand will double by 2050 — having more facilities that can produce lab-grown meat only makes economic sense.
And if the potential partners are indeed companies that readers in the meat industry are familiar with, as company officials told Global Meat News, it may also help make consumers want to eat the lab-grown product. Consumers may be scared off by chicken meat that was grown in a lab, but if they know that meat came from a top chicken producer, that may lend more confidence to its quality and the procedure. Hampton Creek also has created an online video heightening the sustainability of lab-grown meat to help push the concept.
This is the second recent piece of positive news for Hampton Creek. Last week, the company announced it had received generally recognized as safe status from the Food and Drug Administration for a mung bean protein isolate it hopes to use as a main ingredient in a vegan egg substitute product.