Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown didn’t mince words when asked about the future of cell-based meat today at the Smart Kitchen Summit. “That will never be a commercial endeavor,” Brown said. “The reason has to do with the fact that it’s irreversibly expensive.”
While Brown agreed with the sentiment behind cell-based meat — removing animals from our diets — he doesn’t think the concept is a viable solution. Brown said that if companies were able to recreate muscle cells, that technology would be used first for therapeutic purposes, which would be much more lucrative than selling a facsimile of animal products.
Brown went on to create a hypothetical example. If 200 years ago, he theorized, you tried to develop new transportation by recreating the muscle cells of a horse, “you miss the real opportunities” because you’d be “stuck with limitations of animal cells.”
Brown’s fiery assertion is bound to ruffle some feathers in the cell-based meat world, which is full of companies hard at work re-creating meats in the lab. Startups in the cultured meat sector have raised a lot of money just over this past year: Memphis Meat raised $161 million in January, Integriculture raised $7.4 million in May, New Age Meats raised $4.7 million for its cell-based pork in July, and Mosa Meat raised $55 million for its cell-based burgers just last month.
Though Brown definitely has a plant-based horse in this race, his point is something we at The Spoon have pondered before. If plant-based meat tastes this good, do we even need to make meat in a lab? The plant-based ground beefs and pork from both Impossible and Beyond Meat are delicious. Should more resources be funneled into the cultured meat space, which, according to the companies making cell-based meat, is still years away from commercial availability at scale?
As if to erase any doubt about his position on cell-based meat, Brown said “It’s never going to be a thing. I’d put any amount of money on that.”