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Can You Really Call This ‘Clean Meat?’

What do agricultural giant Cargill Inc. and billionaires Richard Branson and Bill Gates have in common? They’re among a group of investors who have given, so far, $17 million to Memphis Meats — a startup company that’s growing meat (beef, chicken and duck) from animal cells. No actual animals are involved, just their cells, so the idea is that one day environmentally (and ethically) devastating concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) could become a thing of the past.

Branson is so confident about Memphis Meats’ future that he told Bloomberg News, “I believe that in 30 years or so we will no longer need to kill any animals and that all meat will either be clean or plant-based, taste the same and also be much healthier for everyone.”1This so-called “clean-meat movement,” also known as the cultured protein market, has struck a chord with many, from animal rights groups and vegans to environmental groups and media outlets.

There’s no doubt that industrial agriculture, including CAFOs and the monocrops used to support them, is destroying the planet and must be changed. But is lab-grown meat really the direction we should be heading?

Do You Really Want Elite Billionaire Investors in Control of Your Burgers?

Once you get past the science-project feel, the idea of lab-grown meat sounds plausible — even ingenious. Meat without any of the environmental downsides and with no need to send animals to slaughter? Grown neatly and efficiently in a lab, resulting in juicy steaks, chicken and duck — enough to feed the world? It sounds too good to be true, but that hasn’t deterred a laundry list of investors from staking their claim in this emerging market.

In addition to Cargill, Branson and Gates, other investors in Memphis Meats include General Electric CEO Jack Welch, venture capital firm DJF (which has also invested in Tesla, SpaceX and Skype) and billionaires Kimbal Musk (brother of tech billionaire Elon Musk) and Kyle Vogt (co-founder of a self-driving car startup).

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