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Cargill, one of the country’s biggest agriculture companies, is making a big bet on meat produced without animals.

This week, Cargill, Bill Gates and several venture-capital firms raised $17 million to invest in Memphis Meats, a startup company that makes several kinds of meat in a lab.

Memphis Meats has tapped into rising consumer demand for more environmentally friendly “clean meats” and uses a nascent technology to make beef, chicken and duck from self-producing animal cells.

So far, Memphis Meats has raised $22 million. The company said it plans to use the investments to scale up productions and reduce costs.

The investors did not report their individual contributions. Cargill said it plans to use its stake in Memphis Meats to help the company “further innovate and commercialize” its products.

(Image credit: Tom Sodoge via Unsplash)

Memphis Meats is one of a growing number of companies in the “clean meat” space including Hampton Creek, Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods.

The companies still face several hurdles in getting their products onto dinner tables, especially when it comes to cost. Memphis Meats has already made significant progress in that regard. Last year, the company’s CEO said it cost them $18,000 to make a pound of meat — now Memphis Meats has gotten the cost down to about $2,400.

Regulators from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Agriculture Department have also yet to determine if the cell-culturing process is safe. But Memphis Meats said the company has been in talks with both agencies.

"The world loves to eat meat, and it is core to many of our cultures and traditions," Uma Valeti, co-founder and CEO of Memphis Meats, said in the statement. "The way conventional meat is produced today creates challenges for the environment, animal welfare and human health. These are problems that everyone wants to solve."

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