During Slush, I searched for disrupting ideas. Something considered as game changers. Something so significant that they cover a market worth of hundreds of billions. I wanted to find at least three ideas, because the rule of three is proven to attract attention (if you trust wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_three_(writing)). Unfortunately, I came up with only two, but try to stay excited because the number 1 is huge. It is literally the beef.
Uma Valeti pitched his company Memphis Meats on the Founders Stage last Thursday in Messukeskus. So what does Memphis Meats do? They simply develop better meat grown from animal cells, without killing and slaughtering the animals. Cows are saved, and a serious amount of them could be saved (more than 30 million cows are whacked each year in U.S. only according to PETA). And yes, this is real meat, not a plant-based substitute. Not your grandmothers meatballs. Will you vegans dare to try it?
I love meat and so do you. Well, at least 90% of the world's entire population according to Mr. Valeti. He states three things why this is a problem:
1. The earth can't handle it
Agriculture generates anywhere from 14 to 51 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions attributable to humans and takes 40 percent of the world's arable lands. Oh yes, and one hamburger requires about 2500 liters of water to produce...
2. Animals have had enough
It takes more than a billion animals to satisfy our meat consumption yearly. A lot of slaughtering and killing.
3. It's dirty
Meat production is highly exposed to bacterial pathogen contamination. This includes the good old salmonella and E.coli for a starter. Apparently, meat contains a ton of fecal bacteria. Yummy.
As you can see, the direct impact is pretty straightforward. But what challenges me is the transition phase from traditional meat to this cultured meat. The meat industry in U.S. generates about 840 billion euros annually, roughly 6 percent of the country's entire GDP. No argue, it is a huge market. BUT, the problem is that the American government spends more than €35 billion per year subsidizing the meat and dairy industry, while only 0.04% of that (less than €16 million) to subsidize fruits and vegetables. So basically, the government encourages you to skip your beloved greens. Well, you might argue that: "cultured meat is meat and not veggies, so it will be subsidized heavily also". I hope so, but remember, the meat market in U.S is almost worth trillion euros, including about €19 billion in salaries only. What would happen if a company like Memphis Meats would start to mix up the market and challenge the big players? We're never going to find out. All of the subsidizes goes to big corporations and not small farmers. Two thirds of American farmers don't receive any of the direct subsidizes that are worth several billions. Most of the funds go straight to large organizations. This is an absurdity. So without the support, an innovative company like Memphis Meats will never be able to push their product through to market efficiently enough. The startup is seen as a threat. A threat that changes the norms, and change is bad. The solution for completely enjoyable and eco-friendly beef. The solution for a more sustainable world. Even though it's a long journey, it is a solution we should pursue.
So how can we get our hands on to this great stuff?! In 2013, a lab-grown burger would cost around €300,000. That's some expensive quarter pounder. Today, the burger could be made for around €10. But no one is going to pay a great premium for a laboratory burger, and Memphis Meats knows this. They claim that they could match up the pricing with traditional meat (if not lower) in just five years. This would be about 2 cents per gram in 2021. It's easy to agree with the generic impression that governmental intervention and free market economics reconcile with some difficulties. We should refrain from the idea that governmental participation is the midas touch. However if you are talking about a market which is already labeled with disporportionate level of subsidies, the question setting is different. It all comes down to how they should be directed. To get into this low price point, the bay-area startup needs to get serious governmental support, preferably yesterday. This kind of a disrupting change requires powerful triggers. We all need to push the flywheel together and create the impact. It starts from us.
I love meat and I continue to eat it, but I will change immediately to cultured meat when possible. It's almost too good to be true. Lab burgers for everyone!
Check out this video of Memphis Meats' vision: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHEYYKuleAw