Meet Mike the farmer. He grows meat today in the traditional way.
And meet Josh, the boss of the lab-grown meat startup called Eat Just. He's disrupting Mike's world.
In this article, I predict how huge lab-grown meat will be by 2030 on a scale of 1 to 10 based on looking at:
- The technology needed
- The companies making it happen
- What's to love
- jobs that will be hired.
Lab grown meat will be huge if the three major technology challenges are solved.
By 2030, Josh needs technology that can address the problem of creating Starter Cells. The good news is this is already solved it.
On Mike's farm, he gets his starter cells through breeding. For example, a hen laying eggs.
How does Josh do it? It's simple. For chicken, take a feather. Yes, just a feather. Extract some cells. That's it. It's similarly straightforward for beef and pork.
Technology is then needed to grow the meat. Although harder, this one will be solved by 2030.
To grow meat, Mike feeds the young animals grains and in case of a chicken it takes 4 months to be fully grown. How does Josh grow meat? He takes the starter cells and feeds them the same type of food that Mike feeds the animals... but into a bioreactor. It's a technology that's been used for years in beer distilleries. The mix needs a growth serum. Currently, this is controversial.. using stem cells from cow foetuses. Thankfully there is a non-animal version in development. This process can take as little as two weeks to grow chicken meat.
Technologies for good taste "maybe solved" by 2030 but it's a hard nut to crack.
Mike delivers great taste because animal fat and muscle give meat texture and taste. Josh and others are working hard to develop technologies that mimic the natural structure of meat. In December 2020, Eat Just sold the first commercially available lab-grown chicken and this customer shows they have technology to produce good tasting meat. But producing great tasting chicken nuggets is easier than growing a great tasting steak. Aleph Farms is a startup whose technology is making huge strides in this area. This steak, as you can see, has the different types of cells needed.
Mass production technologies are solved. Mike has huge sheds of chickens that's then sent for meat processing.
How does Josh scale up? It's straightforward. He builds factories with lots of bioreactors in them. He already has facilities in the US and Singapore.
Lab-grown meat will be huge if there are unicorns - startup companies that have a valuation of more than a billion dollars and when there's plenty of big established companies.
Josh's company Eat Just is a unicorn. He is a great visionary for the lab-grown meat industry a bit like Elon Musk is for space travel and electric cars. Josh also gets stuff done. The first commercially available lab-grown meat anywhere was his... from a restaurant in Singapore. Here's a copy of the receipt. Part of this success came from pioneering efforts with regulators working with the Singapore food regulator for two years to get approval that it is safe to eat. He's also in my opinion is smart at marketing choosing the name "GOOD" for the meat. It appeals to those that will buy it: "meat that is good for the environment, good for animals and good for you". Clever. If I could buy shares in Eat Just, I would.
Memphis Meats is a unicorn valued at $2 billion. Uma Valeti is the CEO.
He produced the world's first lab-grown beef meatballs and the first duck. Duck is a big deal because they eat so much of it in China. Valeti's attracted lots of great investors including Richard Branson who stopped eating meat in 2014... and Kimbal Musk, Elon Musk's brother and on the board of Tesla and SpaceX.
Mosa Meat's well on its way to being a unicorn. Its Chief Science Officer, Professor Mark Post is a founding figure of the lab-grown meat industry. Back in 2013, the billionaire co-founder of Google, Sergey Brin, approached Post to make the world's first hamburger using Post's technique for growing muscle fibres from cow stem cells. Here you see the public tasting of it in London. It cost $325,000. They are now focused on bringing burgers to market in 2022 for less than $8.
Big companies are also active including fast food players McDonald's and KFC and the meat processor Tyson.
Learning to sell
They're learning to sell non-traditional meat products with hugely successful plant-based burgers such as Beyond Meat's McPlant burger.
Investing in startups
And these companies are investing in startups. Tyson for example is an investor in Memphis Meats.
For lab-grown meat to be huge it needs to get 5-star levels of love and no 1 star
Lab-grown meat gets 5 stars for being much better for the environment.
15% of global greenhouse emissions today are from meat production. The same as total emissions from cars. These emissions are from huge amounts of methane from farting cows, growing the crops to feed the animals and from Amazonian deforestation.
In contrast, Josh's lab-grown meat produces up to a massive 90% fewer emissions than farmed meat. This is because he produces no methane, requires no deforestation and converts the feed inputs more efficiently than Mike can.
It gets 5 stars for animal welfare because it requires far fewer animals to be killed.
Today, Mike and the meat industry worldwide kill a lot of animals; every day, 130 million chickens and nearly 1 million cattle. Not one single animal dies when you eat meat made by Josh - once he's developed the animal-free growth serum that he's working on. Winston Churchill would be cheering Josh on. Way back in 1931, he said..." one day we shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat just the breast or wing."
I wonder if he thought it would take 100 years to happen?
Lab-grown meat gets 5 stars for being healthy compared to today's meat. Today, huge amounts of antibiotics are used in meat production and some meats are unhealthy containing things like saturated fats. Josh's meat will be super healthy.A bit like we have Diet Coke, we will have Diet Beef and Diet Chicken. For example, steaks are low in cholesterol and grown without any antibiotics. I wonder if he thought it would take 100 years to happen?
Some people definitely won't like lab-grown meat and will give it a 1-star review saying it's not natural real meat.
"It isn't meat and shouldn't be called meat" they say.
The Minnesota government has already passed legislation outlawing lab-grown meat being labelled as 'meat'.
"Cultured meat" or "clean meat" is the term that the industry seems to be settling on. Given there is plenty for people to love, on this basis, we're at the huge end of the scale.
If lab-grown meat is going to be huge there will be lots of jobs hired and fired.
Farmers like Mike will be fired but population growth means there is demand to keep both him and the lab grown meat industry busy for a long time to come.
On the hired side, There's 15 job openings shown on LinkedIn at the time of recording that Josh is hiring for.
Josh needs a team and his vacancies are across many job functions: marketing for a social media specialist, 5 technical team vacancies including stem cell, process and food scientists, manufacturing has roles on the factory production lines legal for a contracts attorney, and IT for a Head of Global IT and Security and although not being hired at the moment there's a growing team in Finance, HR, Customer Service and Sales
Helping you make good career decisions is a big reason why I'm doing this Life in 2030 channel. Jobs in fast growing new sectors like lab grown meat are exciting and more secure than in older sectors.
You could set up some job alerts for these companies. It's easy to do on LinkedIn and click to have a look at my 'Finding great jobs for life in 2030' video. Because there's plenty of jobs being hired and fired, from a Jobs point of view, lab grown meat is at the Huge end of the scale.