French cultivated meat startup Gourmey has raised €48 million in what is thought to be the largest fundraising round of its kind for the sector.
The raise, notably joined by France’s public investment bank Bpifrance, will fund the construction of Europe’s biggest cultivated production hub in Paris. Regulatory approval is not yet granted for cultivated meat sales in the EU, but the development of products is permitted.
Gourmey is currently focused on cultivated foie gras. The company states that by creating a “cruelty-free” alternative, it is honoring the cultural heritage of its home country—all while embracing new technology and supporting a sustainable food system.
“We are thrilled to see our vision of a more sustainable food system come to life as we are moving from R&D to production and commercialization,” Nicolas Morin-Forest, CEO of Gourmey, said in a statement.
The investment comes as France faces a potential foie gras shortage as a result of new avian flu outbreaks. The country had been declared bird flu-free in May this year, but the H5N1 strain was identified again in September. This resulted in the slaughter of 10,600 ducks on one Saint-Nizier-le-Desert farm.
How sustainable is cultivated meat?
Swapping conventional meat, produced using resource-intensive animal agriculture, for cultivated alternatives could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 92 percent. This is according to a study published last year by CE Delft. Findings also pointed to significant water, land, and pollution savings.
The smaller environmental impact hinges on the use of single-cell samples, which can be taken painlessly from living animals. These are then fed and grown in sterile industrial-scale bioreactors. Many cultivated production plants are looking to be supported by renewable energy in a bid to further lower footprints.
If consumers are willing to ditch conventional meat for cultivated meat (which is also often referred to as cultured or cell-based meat), it could dramatically reduce methane emissions. This is because, in traditional farming, just one cow can belch 220 pounds of the potent greenhouse gas every year.
Furthermore, deforestation, which is largely driven by beef production, could lessen as well, allowing trees to resume natural carbon sequestration.
A recent poll claims that vegans and vegetarians generally support the idea of cultivated meat, though few would eat it. The general populous is also thought to be coming around to the innovation. One-third of people are ready to try it, according to research by the Food and Safety Agency.
French resistance to cultivated meat
Gourmey could face difficulties appealing to its domestic consumers.
While other European countries, including the Netherlands (the widely accepted birthplace of cultured technology), have made progress with consumer support, France has not yet managed to garner widespread acceptance.
This is largely due to a 2021 ban on cultivated meat products in canteens throughout the country. It was introduced despite nothing being available yet. French farming lobbies have also demonstrated concern. Plus, key political figures have used their professional platforms to make their personal feelings known.
“Is this really the society we want for our children? Me, NO. I say it clearly, Meat comes from life, not from laboratories. Count on me that in France, meat will stay natural and never artificial!” Tweeted France’s agriculture minister Julien Denormandie in response to Singapore green-lighting cultivated chicken nuggets in 2020.
Despite potential domestic resistance, Gourmey is pressing ahead with the construction of a 46,000-square-foot production plant to support its cultured foie gras ambitions. The facility is slated for completion in 2024.