TEC.05.01.16.Memphis Meats
Illustration by Joel Holland for Fortune, Photo courtesy of Memphis Meats

The Hottest Tech in Silicon Valley Made This Meatball

Apr 25, 2016

What: A “cultured” meatball from Memphis Meats, a San Francisco startup backed by almost $3 million in venture funding.

Fresh Meat: The company makes its meat in a lab from the cells of cows, chickens, and pigs. One meatball takes three weeks to propagate in a steel tank. “It’s not ‘lab-grown’ meat,” says co-founder and CEO Uma Valeti. “It’s like a meat brewery.”

Square Meal: Cells eat a diet of glucose, vitamins, and minerals to proliferate. “We create the conditions where the cells can grow freely.”

Taste Test: People who tasted the cultured meatball couldn’t tell that it was grown from cells. “It has an undeniable and intense meat flavor. Our goal was not to be a vegetarian product.”

Check, Please: There’s a catch—one pound of ground beef costs Memphis Meats $18,000 to grow. “We’re trying to scale it up so that it’s cost-effective.”

For more on the unconventional meat industry, check out this Fortune video:

Hunger Games: Startups making protein with fewer environmental and health risks are hot: Beyond Meat, which makes protein from plants, counts Bill Gates and two Twitter co-founders as investors; Gates also backed its rival, Impossible Foods.

Next Course: Memphis Meats hopes to sell its product by 2021, Valeti says. “We’re still in deep R&D.”

A version of this article appears in the May 1, 2016 issue of Fortune.

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