Dutch startup Mosa Meat secured US$8.8 million funding to mass-produce slaughter-free meat by 2021. In 2013, the startup company presented the world’s first hamburger made by growing cow cells in a laboratory instead of slaughtering an animal.
Mosa’s new round of investment comes from M Ventures, the venture capital arm of science and technology company Merck, and Bell Food Group, one of the leading meat processors in Switzerland.
Mosa Meat will use the funding to develop an end-to-end process for so-called clean meat production at a significantly reduced cost. The funding will also pay for the construction of a production plant, needed to introduce a commercial product by 2021.
“Clean meat could solve the coming food crisis, and help combat climate change,” says Mosa Meat. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that the demand for meat is going to increase by 70 percent by 2050, and current production methods are not sustainable.
“Replacing traditional meat production with cultured meat would have a huge impact on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. It would free up a large amount of resources that are now used for meat production worldwide and will completely disrupt the old-established and currently unsustainable industry,” says Alexander Hoffmann, Principal at M Ventures.
M Ventures’ funding marks the first investment in a European cultured meat company. “M Ventures, being the corporate venture capital fund of Merck, is the perfect door-opener to Merck’s deep expertise in culturing cells and producing high quality and scalable cell media. This is significant given that the cell media currently comprises 80 percent of the cost of cultured meat,” says Mosa Meat CEO Peter Verstrate. “Bell Food Group brings strong downstream capabilities in meat processing and distribution. We think this is a perfect collaboration,” adds Verstrate.
“Meat demand is soaring and in the future, won’t be met by livestock agriculture alone,” says Lorenz Wyss, CEO of Bell Food Group. “We believe this technology can become a true alternative for environment-conscious consumers, and we are delighted to bring our know-how and expertise of the meat business into this strategic partnership with Mosa Meat,” he adds.
The first slaughter-free burger cost Mosa Meat almost US$300,000 to produce. Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google, funded the project, sharing Mosa’s concerns about the environmental and animal welfare impacts of conventional meat production.
Scaling up production and lowering the price are the biggest challenges for Mosa Meat by 2021. When meat production is brought to industrial scale, Mosa estimates that the cost of producing a hamburger will be around nine euro. “The cost of a hamburger in the supermarket is around one euro, and we project that with further efficiency improvements we will be able to bring the price down to this level in the next five to seven years,” adds Mosa Meat.
Mosa claims their slaughter-free beef is clean and tastes great. The cells come from cows raised on organic farms and the cows are given anesthesia before a sample is taken. One cell sample can create up to 20,000 tons of meat. This meat is molecularly the same as livestock meat, and therefore has the same taste.
The current focus of Mosa Meat is on producing ground meat products, which “account for 50 percent of the total meat market.”
“In future, we will be working on other species. While millions of cows are slaughtered each year, even more chickens and pigs are killed,” says Mosa Meat. The startup company expects to bring about fundamental changes to meat consumption and animal welfare.
Photo courtesy of Mosa Meat