The First Test-Tube Meatball, Sans Slaughterhouse

Test-tube meat is moving out of the labs and getting ready to being served on our plates.

Memphis Meats is all set to become the first company to sell meat grown from animal stem cells. Planning a debut on February 4, its three founders will present it to investors at Indie Bio.


Memphis Meats CEO Uma Valeti said the following.

“This is absolutely the future of meat. We plan to do to the meat industry what the car did to the horse and buggy. Cultured meat will completely replace the status quo and make raising animals to eat them simply unthinkable.”


Valeti, M.D., a cardiologist, founded Memphis Meats with Nicholas Genovese, Ph.D., a stem cell biologist, and Will Clem, Ph.D., a biomedical engineer who owns a chain of barbeque restaurants in Memphis, Tennessee. The mouthwatering reputation of Memphis barbeque inspired the company’s name.

They are creating a new kind of farming, one that provides the same delicious meat, without all the drawbacks of environmental degradation, a slew of health risks, and food products that contain antibiotics, fecal matter, pathogens, and other contaminants.


Their concept is simple. Instead of farming animals to obtain their meat, they farm the meat directly. They are combining decades of experience in both the culinary and scientific fields to farm real meat cells—without the animals—in a process that is healthier, safer, and more sustainable than conventional animal agriculture.

Memphis Meats is already growing real meat in small quantities using cells from cows, pigs, and chickens. The company’s first products—hot dogs, sausages, burgers, and meatballs—will be developed using recipes perfected over a half century by award-winning chefs. The founders expect to have products to market in less than five years.


Bruce Friedrich, executive director of The Good Food Institute, explains.

“Cultured meat is sustainable, creates far fewer greenhouse gases than conventional meat, is safer, and doesn’t harm animals. For people who want to eat meat, cultured meat is the future.”

The Daily Mail reported that it is one of several firms that developed “test tube meats” that could one day be cheaper and more environmentally friendly to produce than traditional farming.

While generating one calorie from beef requires 23 calories in feed, Memphis Meats plans to produce a calorie of meat from just three calories in inputs. The company’s products will be free of antibiotics, fecal matter, pathogens, and other contaminants found in conventional meat.

The Fortune reported that consumers want to know where their food comes from and what’s in it, which is partly why more food industry giants have been moving towards more animal-friendly practices.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin, who provided $330,000 to fund the world’s first cultured hamburger, describes cultured meat as a technology.

“[Cultured meat has] the capability to transform how we view our world.”

This week, it revealed its first product — a meatball. In the video that unveiled the lab grown meatball, Valeti said the following.

“We watched how the meatball reacted in the pan, we heard the sizzle, we smelled the meat and it was exactly how you would expect a meatball to smell. This is the first time a meatball has ever been cooked with beef cells that didn’t require a cow to be slaughtered.”

In order to grow meat in a lab, Memphis Meats begins by isolating cow and pig cells that have the ability to regenerate, and “provides the cells with oxygen and nutrients such as sugars and minerals.” These cells develop inside bioreactor tanks into skeletal muscle that can be harvested in between nine and 21 days.

The firm does use fetal bovine serum from unborn calves’ blood to initiate the process, though Valeti mentions that no animals are slaughtered in making the meats.

Fetal bovine serum is the most commonly used animal supplement for cell cultures.When a pregnant cow is slaughtered, blood is drawn from the fetus through its heart. In order to separate the blood cells from the serum, the blood is sent through a centrifuge and then filtered further. The final product is low in antibodies and high in growth factors.

Memphis Meats says they are working on plant-based alternative that will replace the serum in the future.

Memphis Meats will offer its products to restaurants and retailers, including Memphis-area barbecue restaurants that are co-owned by William Clem, a tissue scientist who teamed up with Mr. Valeti and Nick Genovese, a stem cell biologist, to start the company. Clem said the following.

“This is probably the toughest market you can imagine for something like this. It’s Memphis, Tenn., it’s all about tradition. We’ve got a road map to start small and introduce it to people and get some feedback.”

Well, all those meat lovers turned vegetarians, due to concerns of animal rights and environment, can now start rethinking on their plans.

[Photo by DanVostok/Shutterstock]