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Where's The Meat?

Companies looking to change the way meat is produced are gaining traction. Here are two relatively new start-ups producing meat substitutes that come closer to mimicking the real thing than any previous veggie burgers.

Impossible Foods

Web: impossiblefoods.com

The company calls its signature product the Impossible Burger, and its website says its scientists, farmers, and chefs spent the last five years studying burgers from cow to bun. “Then we identified methods and ingredients to naturally re-create everything – the sights, sounds, aromas, textures, and flavors.”

The Impossible Burger is now crafted from wheat, coconut oil, potatoes, and heme. It’s that last one – heme – that is the magic ingredient. It contributes to the characteristic color and taste of meat, and “catalyzes all the other flavors when meat is cooked. Heme is exceptionally abundant in animal muscle, and it’s a basic building block of life in all organisms, including plants,” the company says.

“We discovered how to take heme from plants and produce it using fermentation. Adding heme to the Impossible Burger makes it a carnivore’s delight,” says the company.

Its marketing tack is to take the Impossible Burger to restaurants first. You can’t buy it in grocery stores now, although that may change. Forty restaurants in California and New York offer the Impossible Burger, as well as the Texas burger chain Hopdoddy. 

A new production facility opening soon in California will take production to 1.4 million pounds a month.

Memphis Meats

Web: memphismeats.com

This start-up company, based in San Francisco, is producing real meat – without the animals. 

“We start by harvesting meat cells from the highest-quality livestock,” says the company’s website. “Then, we identify cells that are capable of self-renewal. We’ve learned which cells give us the flavor, textures, and aromas we want. We grow those cells into meat in a clean, safe, and nutritious environment. After four to six weeks, depending on the cut, we harvest the meat, cook it, and enjoy it!” 

In February 2016, Memphis Meats unveiled a lab-produced meatball at a press event. Then in March 2017, it showcased both chicken and duck meat grown in its laboratories. “We have many other exciting things cooking in our kitchen,” says the company. 

These products are real meat, the company says. “Many consumers who don’t eat conventionally produced meat today, including vegetarians and vegans, will consider Memphis Meats. We are firmly focused on bringing meat to the table for meat lovers everywhere.

“We expect our products to be better for the environment, requiring up to 90% less land and water than conventionally produced meat,” the company says.

In announcing a recent round of investment capital, which includes an investment from Cargill, Memphis Meats says its cost to grow meat in a laboratory will continue to come down. It will use investment funds for product development, and “to reduce production costs to levels comparable to – and ultimately below – conventional meat costs,” the company says.

“We’re going to bring meat to the plate in a more sustainable, affordable, and delicious way,” explains Uma Valeti, cofounder and CEO of Memphis Meats. 

“The world loves to eat meat, and it is core to many of our cultures and traditions. Meat demand is growing rapidly around the world. We want the world to keep eating what it loves,” Valeti says.

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