Fake Meat Startup Shuts Down Without Selling a Single Fake Meat to a Restaurant or Grocery Store

Butchered Prospects

It seems the lab-grown meat industry just hasn't managed to serve up something people want to sink their teeth into.

In a development that augurs ill for the burgeoning food sector, SFGate reports that a Bay Area-based startup called SCiFi Foods, which had dreams of bringing "hybrid" burgers made of a mix of plants and lab-grown beef to the masses, is shutting down just six months after it had announced the completion of its first meat-growing facility.

In a LinkedIn post on Tuesday, the company's co-founders Joshua March and Kasia Gora painfully admitted that SCiFi failed to bring a single meat product to market. Or in other words, not one of their Franken-patties ever managed to grace stores and restaurants.

"Unfortunately, in this funding environment, we could not raise the capital that we needed to commercialize the SCiFi burger, and SCiFi Foods ran out of time," they wrote.

The company's struggle, March and Gora added, "reflects the challenges that the cultivated meat and general meat alternative markets are facing today."

Sausage Making

As icky as the idea sounds to some people, lab-grown or "cultivated" meat promises to solve a lot of ethical quandaries. No animals would be harmed in making it. And if the bioreactors to cultivate it became efficient enough, it would also spare us the guilt associated with the harrowing environmental toll of the meat industry.

Proponents also argued that, in a future that foregoes slaying animals for food, it would make for a much more palatable alternative than plant-based ones, as many people are unwilling to entirely give up meat.

But a lot of practical hurdles stand in the way, with the exorbitant costs associated with growing the meat being the biggest. When the venture first started out in 2019, a single SCiFi burger cost $20,000 to create, the cofounders said. Over five years, the company's scientists were only able to bring that down to a still eye-watering — but perhaps no more mouth-watering — $15,000.

Rotten Luck

Few could predict just how volatile a political issue ersatz meat would turn out to be, however. Along with waning enthusiasm for the industry, the cofounders said, they also blame the hostile "culture wars" in the US for their failures — and it's not hard to understand why.

Last month, Florida Governor Ron Desantis outright banned the lab-grown meat industry from the state, no doubt inflaming public opinion on the matter across the country. Just two weeks later Alabama followed suit and also enacted a ban.

At least on a federal level, regulators appear more equitable. Last year, the US Department of Agriculture approved two companies, Upside Foods and Good Meat, to sell cultivated chicken products, in a breakthrough for the industry.

But since then, Upside Foods, considered a leader among meat-fakers, has been hampered with setbacks and scandals, including a pause on expanding its facilities and scrutiny over allegedly misleading the public on how its cultivated chicken is made. And now, if SCiFi's fate is any indication, the forecast is ever grimmer.

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