Inside Big Meat’s Losing Battle to Crush Alt-Meat Startups

Why the hurdles raised by the meat industry won’t slow the arrival of lab-grown meat

Chase Purdy
Marker
Published in
8 min readJun 16, 2020

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Image: CSA Images/Getty

The meat industry has made a lot of headlines in the past few weeks. More than 20,400 meatpacking workers across 33 states have been infected with Covid-19, and many meatpacking plants have shut down, leading to meat shortages on grocery shelves at the same time that ranchers end up having to kill and dispose of excess livestock with nowhere to send it. All this while the industry remains — as it has for years — a major contributor to climate change.

This turmoil may be expanding the window of opportunity for a number of startups that have been looking to replace traditional meats with alternatives, which they say will address the problems at the root of the meat industry. Companies exploring plant-based meat substitutes, like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, were already making strides with consumers before the pandemic struck. But another group of researchers and entrepreneurs has been inching closer to bringing a different kind of alternative to market: lab-grown, cell-cultured meat. California-based Memphis Meats raised $161 million just a few months ago from high-profile investors like Bill Gates and Richard Branson to start production of its cell-based meat. Dutch company…

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