Tyson Foods backs Israeli startup to grow meat in the lab

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Tyson Foods (TSN.N), the largest U.S. meat processor, has invested in an Israeli biotech company developing a way to grow affordable meat in a laboratory that takes live animals out of the equation.

Yaakov Nahmias, founder and chief scientist of Future Meat Technologies, holds laboratory-grown fat samples in his lab in Jerusalem May 2, 2018. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Future Meat Technologies focuses on producing fat and muscle cells that are the core building blocks of meat, and is one of several firms working on technology to match rising demand for meat without adding more pressure on land from livestock.

The firm’s founder and chief scientist, Yaakov Nahmias, said cultured meat typically had a production price of about $10,000 per kg but so far his company had reduced that to $800/kg and had “a clear roadmap to $5-$10/kg by 2020.”

Yaakov Nahmias, founder and chief scientist of Future Meat Technologies works in his lab in Jerusalem May 2, 2018. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Tyson’s venture capital arm has supported the Jerusalem-based startup by co-leading $2.2 million in seed investment.

“We continue to invest significantly in our traditional meat business but also believe in exploring additional opportunities for growth that give consumers more choices,” said Justin Whitmore, Tyson’s executive vice president for corporate strategy.

In December, Tyson raised its stake in plant-based protein maker Beyond Meat.

Demand for meat is expected to double between 2000 and 2050, when the earth’s population is set to surpass 9 billion, and proponents of growing meat in the lab say it is the only way to meet such demand without destroying the environment.

A study by Oxford University and the University of Amsterdam estimated that cultured meat would produce 96 percent less greenhouse gas, consume 82 to 96 percent less water and virtually eliminate land requirements needed to raise livestock.

Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Edmund Blair



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