Bill Gates and Richard Branson make a beefy investment in lab-grown meat

Meat just ain’t what it used to be. Locally raised beef has entered the market even as the factory-farmed kind remains king, but now lab-grown sources are beginning to look like where the future of food is headed. How long until ethical vegetarians take a guilt-free bite out of a burger and the chide “Does your food have a face?” falls into obscurity?

The truth is, it will probably be a while. When the startup Memphis Meats announced in April that it had for the first time grown chicken meat in a lab, the firm admitted that the achievement came at a cost of $9,000 per pound. That’s a pricey bite.

But today Memphis Meats announced a development that puts its patties into perspective and demonstrates just how much support the lab-grown meat movements has. Business leaders like Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and Kimbal Musk have joined food industry giants like Cargill and venture capital firms in backing the startup with $17 million in a Series A round of funding. In total Memphis Meats has raised $22 million.

We believe this is a very important day for the future of protein,” Steve Myrick, vice president of business development at Memphis Meats, told Digital Trends. “This marks the first public commitment to the clean meat movement by top venture investors or meat industry leaders. This announcement also marks a major moment in which the meat industry and mission-driven groups have come under the same tent. This funding is validating for the clean meat space, and Memphis Meats is now established as the clear leader.”

The shift from farm and factory raised to lab-grown meat might not be an easy one for society to swallow and, as Gizmodo recently pointed out, the startup’s ambition is great but it’s unclear when an affordable product will be available. But lab-grown meat would likely drastically cut carbon emissions.

“This is a momentous occasion for anyone who wants to see a food system that is safe, good for the planet and animals, and completely satisfying to consumers,” Bruce Friedrich, executive director of the Good Food Institute, said in a statement. “Memphis Meats is doing amazing work to make this vision a reality. We are excited to welcome a meat industry leader into the fold, and I believe they have enormous potential to support and accelerate this work. For animal welfare and environmental advocates, today is a huge step forward.”

The recent investment suggests that there’s more to the lab-grown meat than meets the eye.