The Fate of Food by Amanda Little is one of the most eye-opening books we've read in years. An award-winning journalist and professor at Vanderbilt University, Little spent three years traveling across the United States—and all over the world—chasing after one question: How are we going to feed a growing population amid an also-growing climate crisis? Her research led her everywhere from GMO corn farms in Kenya to a monsoon cloud above Mumbai. In the excerpt below, she visits Memphis Meats, a Berkeley-based startup that just received $161 million in new funding, has been invested in by the likes of Bill Gates and Richard Branson, and is now planning its first pilot production facility. Unlike other meatless-meat competitors (think Beyond Meat and Impossible), Memphis Meats is actually meat. You just don't need to slaughter any animals in the process.
Cofounded in 2015 by Uma Valeti, an Indian-born cardiologist, and Nicholas Genovese, a stem cell biologist, Memphis Meats is the world’s first start-up to grow meat in a laboratory using tiny samples of muscle, fat, and connective tissues taken from living animals. “We are a meat, poultry, and seafood company that makes end products no different than conventional meat, while eliminating the need for animal slaughter,” Valeti tells me in a phone call before my visit. He adds that the cells that are grown, or “cultured,” in his laboratories are “alive,” even though they’re not attached to the animal. They’re so alive, in fact, that the mature muscle tissue he produces actually responds—as in flexes, or spasms—when stimulated.