(Bloomberg) -- Tyson Foods Inc., the largest meatpacker in the U.S., is co-leading a $2.2 million seed investment in an Israeli startup that aims to affordably produce meat from animal cells, without the need to raise or harvest livestock.
Jerusalem-based Future Meat Technologies focuses on developing manufacturing technology that will enable the cost-efficient production of fat and muscle cells, the core building blocks of meat. Founder Yaakov Nahmias says the company has already reduced the cost of cultured meat from about $10,000 per kilogram to $800 per kilogram, with a “clear roadmap” to $5-$10 per kilogram by 2020.
Tyson is seeking to acquire companies that would boost its food brands and geographic reach, Chief Executive Officer Tom Hayes said in January. The company raised its stake in Beyond Meat, a plant-based burger manufacturer in December. Its also announced an investment in Memphis Meats, a cultured-meat producer that’s backed by Cargill Inc., Bill Gates and Richard Branson.
“This is our first investment in an Israel-based company and we’re excited about this opportunity to broaden our exposure to innovative, new ways of producing protein,” said Justin Whitmore, Tyson’s executive vice president for corporate strategy. “We continue to invest significantly in our traditional meat business but also believe in exploring additional opportunities for growth that give consumers more choices.”
Nahmias says that Future Meat Technologies is the only company at this time that can make animal fat, which produces the unique aroma and flavor of meat that “makes our mouth water,” without killing animals or any genetic modification.
Consumer interest in meat alternatives has gained traction amid concerns about animal welfare and the environmental impact of livestock production. A November report from CoBank, a U.S. farm lender, labeled protein products made from plants, insects and cultured meat as a top food trend to watch in 2018 and beyond.
Other participants in this round of financing include Neto Group, an Israeli food conglomerate, S2G Ventures, a Chicago-based venture capital fund, Bits x Bites, China’s first food technology venture capital fund, and Agrinnovation, an Israeli investment fund founded by Yissum Research Development Co. of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Future Meat Technologies said it expects to use the funds for engineering activities and biological research. The company said it is currently recruiting engineers, chefs and scientists.
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