As consumers become more socially conscious about their meat consumption, food companies are looking for ways to produce popular meat items ethically. This trend has prompted the creation of lab-grown start-ups that make meat products from cultured animal cells rather than from slaughtered animals. Finless Foods, a start-up that produces lab-grown tuna, has cut production costs by 50 percent and hopes to have their products at price parity to traditional Bluefin tuna by 2019.
Finless Foods – co-founded by Mike Selden and Brian Wyrwas, molecular biologists at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst – created their first prototype in September with the overall cost at $19,000 per pound of fish. Now, the company has been able to cut production costs by 50 percent and they hope to continue to cut costs until their product is at comparable to currently-available Bluefin tuna products.
According to Finless Foods CEO Mike Selden, initial quantities of their lab-grown tuna will be limited and will most likely be used by chefs in high-end restaurants. However, after sparking conversations about their ethically produced tuna, the company plans on expanding their reach to grocery markets.
Selden goes on to tell Food Navigator that Finless chose to produce tuna products to help bolster conservation efforts.
“I go into this with the environment in mind; it was originally going to be a PhD project, as people know that Bluefin tuna are oftentimes on and off the threatened species list,” he told Food Navigator.
Selden also brings up the fact that tuna is a high value fish which will allows the company to get into the market faster. The company is able to get to price parity with Bluefin tuna faster than other lab-grown meat manufacturers can with poultry and beef.
Another benefit that comes from lab-grown tuna is the lack of mercury, plastics, antibiotics or growth hormones. This could make Finless’ tuna a healthier and ethical food option for consumers.
Currently, Selden and Wyrwas have seven full time employees who are helping in producing their products. Selden told Food Navigator that the company does not need any partnerships to get into the market, however they are open to future partnerships with other companies.
Finless Foods is not the only company innovating in the meat industry. Israel-based company SuperMeat, recently raised $3 million in funding for their lab-grown chicken products. Memphis Meats is another popular “clean meat” start-up that received support from influencers like Bill Gates and Richard Branson .
With these new “clean meat” start-ups gaining popularity and spreading awareness of ethical meat production, the industry is set for a drastic change. When these new products hit the market, they are likely to start a new trend in the meat industry as consumers become more interested in ethically sourced products.