How far are carnivorous people willing to go to fight climate change and reduce inhumane factory-farming conditions? That’s a huge question when you’re a player in the lab-grown meat industry. How do you overcome the initial “ick factor,” and what will it take to bring the cost of lab-grown meats in line with the conventional hooved or feathered variety?
These are just three of the many topics we’ll discuss with Uma Valeti, founder and CEO of Upside Foods, when he joins us on the Sustainability Stage at TechCrunch Disrupt 2023, which takes place on September 19–21 in San Francisco.
Upside Foods, a leading cultivated meat company and the first to receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to sell lab-grown — or cell-cultured — meat in the U.S., has received nearly $600 million from high-profile investors. Just some of them include the Abu Dhabi Growth Fund, Bill Gates, Cargill, Norwest, SoftBank, Temasek and Tyson Foods.
Yet, the challenges of commercializing cultivated meat at scale — while keeping the price down — are daunting. The cost of the cell culture medium alone can run from hundreds to thousands of dollars per liter. It’s a long bet in terms of cost and the time needed to build out a scalable infrastructure.
We have questions. Why, for example, would people buy expensive lab meat when they can buy the conventional meat they like for less? Are concerns about climate change and animal suffering enough to move the masses beyond their deep emotional and cultural attachment to conventional meat?
We’re eager to hear how Upside plans to win the hearts, minds and stomachs of consumers, as well as Valeti’s plan and timeline to bring mass product to the people at a price that competes with conventional meats.
Upside’s first product is chicken, which will be available in restaurants initially. We’ll check in to see what other lab-grown meats are on the table, what else the company’s working on and whether Valeti has any interesting or unexpected challenges on his metaphorical plate.
Upside may be a major player, but it is by no means the only one. There’s a herd of other interesting startups attempting to prove that a big market for cell-cultured meat exists. Valeti and others in the lab-grown meat industry have their work cut out for them, and we can’t wait to see what happens next.
Dr. Uma Valeti: Upside Foods founder and CEO
Dr. Uma Valeti founded Upside Foods in 2015 and serves as its CEO. The company has achieved notable milestones, from being among the first companies to produce multiple species of cultivated meat, to partnering with the existing meat industry, to receiving the first green light from the FDA for a cultivated meat, poultry or seafood product.
Valeti’s vision is to enable people around the world to eat the meat they love, while transforming the food system to become more sustainable and humane.
Valeti has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the Aspen Ideas Festival and SXSW. In 2019, he was named a “Global Thinker of the Decade” by Foreign Policy magazine. Valeti is a Mayo Clinic–trained cardiologist and an adjunct professor in cardiovascular medicine at Stanford University.
Hear more conversations with leading experts on the Sustainability Stage, which features topics like urban mobility, sustainable fashion, green infrastructure and new mobilities. It’s just one of the six new stages for six breakthrough sectors at Disrupt.
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