Startup That Produces Beef From Cattle Cells Receives $8.8 Million in Funding

Jacob Bunge reported today at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “German drugmaker Merck KGaA and a top European meat processor are backing a startup producing beef from cattle cells, ramping up a race to transform the global meat industry with cell-culture technology.

“The $8.8 million investment in Netherlands-based Mosa Meat by Merck’s venture investing unit and Basel, Switzerland-based Bell Food Group fuels a continuing effort to fulfill growing global demand for meat via a process that developers say requires a fraction of the resources used in traditional livestock and poultry production.

Cell-culture meat makers have yet to begin selling any of their products. But the emerging technology has drawn investments from major U.S. meat processors like Cargill Inc. and  Tyson Foods Inc. It also is raising complaints among cattle ranchers and hog farmers, some of whom regard it as a lab-developed imitation of traditional hamburgers and pork.”

The article noted that, “Mosa is led by Mark Post, a Maastricht University physiologist who unveiled the world’s first lab-grown burger in 2013, and Peter Verstrate, a food technician at the university. Mr. Post’s prototype burger cost $330,000 to develop, but the project encouraged Mr. Post to form Mosa, which previously received funding from Google Inc. co-founder Sergey Brin.

“‘We’ve done a lot of work in scaling up the cell culture… to something that can be used on an industrial scale,’ said Mr. Post.”

Mr. Bunge added that, “Some promoters of the technology see it replacing significant portions of the existing meat industry over time. Meat companies have billed it as an additional way to provide beef, pork or chicken to an expanding and more affluent world population that is expected to strain the existing agricultural system.”

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