Leonardo DiCaprio invests in two cultivated meat startups

29 Sep 2021

International star and climate activist Leonardo DiCaprio invested in both Mosa Meat and Aleph Farms, two startups focused on creating lab-grown meat alternatives. The investment amount made by the Hollywood actor was not disclosed, but he will sit on the advisory boards of both companies.

“One of the most impactful ways to combat the climate crisis is to fundamentally reshape our global food system,” DiCaprio said in a statement.

Leonardo DiCaprio invests in two cultivated meat startups
Photo credit: Eat Just / Reuters

Cultivated protein presents an opportunity for consumers to reduce their environmental footprint while continuing to enjoy the taste of traditional animal meat. Meat and dairy are responsible for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to a 2013 report by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). With such a large impact and Mosa Meat estimating in its press release that meat consumption is expected to rise between 40%–70% by 2050, there will be continued pressure on the environment to sustain demand.

Lab-grown meat, however, proposes to reduce this burden on the environment. In a prospective Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study of cultivated meat completed for GAIA and The Good Food Institute this year, researchers found that cultivated beef production is projected to reduce climate impact by 92%, air pollution by 93%, use 95% less land and 78% less water than industrial beef production.

Not only is this reduced environmental footprint attractive to consumers that are becoming increasingly concerned with how sustainable ingredients are, but companies that are focused on sustainability, especially alternative protein options, are becoming an attractive investment for well-known personalities.

It is no surprise that famous personalities are taking notice of this growing interest in this category as the investment firm UBS has estimated that plant-based protein and meat alternatives will grow from $4.6 billion in 2018 to $85 billion in 2030. Among this staggering growth potential, a small slice of the pie is held by the cultivated meat category, but it is a portion that is attracting significant attention. In 2018, global cell-based meat companies closed 14 separate deals for $50 million, according to a report from The Good Food Institute.

Oprah Winfrey, Jay-Z, Natalie Portman and Katy Perry have all taken a stake in various alternative protein startups including Impossible Foods plant-based chicken nuggets maker Simulate and Oatly.

While this engineered animal protein solution that emphasizes its sustainability is garnering significant attention, it is still a solution that remains largely theoretical. Both Aleph Farms and Mosa Meat are targeting 2022 to launch their first cultured meat products to market. However, regulatory issues remain a significant hurdle.

So far, Singapore is the only market where cultivated meat is approved for commercial sale. The country gave the go-ahead to Eat Just last December to sell its lab-grown chicken. No other countries have yet followed suit, and Food Navigator reported that no cell-based meat startups have applied for Europe’s Novel Foods Application to begin the approval process.

Cost remains another barrier. While there are companies looking to reduce the price of the growth medium needed to cultivate these cells – the priciest portion of growing cell-based meat – there is yet a long way to go to reach price parity with traditional meat products currently sold in supermarkets.

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