Israeli startup Believer Meats has begun construction on the world’s biggest cultivated meat factory — and once it’s up and running, the US-based facility will be able to produce at least 22 million pounds of meat annually.
The challenge: Cultivated meat is produced by combining muscle cells, extracted from living animals, with substances that help the cells grow. The mixture is then placed inside in a machine called a “bioreactor,” which provides the ideal conditions for the cells to multiply.
Because cultivated meat is molecularly identical to the kind that comes from whole animals, it has the same flavor. That means it could allow us to stop raising and slaughtering animals for meat, which is both bad for the environment and arguably unethical, without giving up the taste of burgers and chicken.
For cultivated meat to have any real impact on the meat industry, though, the companies making it need to get costs down. That typically means scaling up production, and right now, many startups are still only producing their lab-grown meat in very small batches.
What’s new? Believer Meats (formerly Future Meats) is not one of those startups. In June 2021, it opened the world’s first industrial-scale cultivated meat factory, which it says is capable of producing more than 400,000 pounds of meat per year.
Now, the company is building a facility in Wilson, North Carolina, that will be able to produce 55 times as much meat.
“Our brand has continually proven our commitment to scale production technology and capacity, and with our new US production center, we are one step closer to commercialization,” said CEO Nicole Johnson-Hoffman.
Looking ahead: A company spokesperson told Freethink that Believer’s new 200,000-square-foot cultivated meat factory is projected to be operational by early 2023.
Even if Believer can meet that goal, though, it won’t be able to sell any of its cultivated meat in the US without first getting the greenlight from both the FDA and the USDA. So far, only one company (UPSIDE Foods) has surmounted that first hurdle, and no one has yet cleared both.
Still, Believer is investing $123.35 million into the facility — about a third of the $388 million it has raised over its lifetime — and that commitment suggests that it expects the US to be a major cultivated meat market in the not-so-distant future.
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