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The first cultivated meat company in the world's meatpacking capital is taking the pig out of pork

Image Credit: Sherard Campbell // Unsplash

Clever Carnivore is in the business of growing cruelty-free, real meat from real cells. They, and others in the business have a mission that goes beyond slashing the global greenhouse gas emissions of meat production. For reference, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) an average cow releases between 154 and 264 pounds of methane into the air annually, the equivalent of burning at most, over 370 gallons of gasoline. On top of that, the EPA reports that 37% of methane emissions from human activity are the direct result of our livestock and agricultural practices.

According to Clever Carnivore, a Chicago-based emerging cultivated meat company, cultivated meat production is projected to reduce climate change-causing emissions by up to 87%. 

Nevertheless, the goals of the cultivated meat industry exceed that of putting a cow-sized dent in our emissions and helping to mitigate the climate crisis. The industry also stands to play a role in decreasing water and land use from agriculture, disrupting the industrial takeover of traditional farmers, diminishing the threat of salmonella, E. coli, and water contamination, and even tackling food insecurity, the startup says.

But to do all that, the price of meat cultivation has to go down.


The United Nations estimates that we must produce 70% more food by 2050, and as food prices continue to rise the UN says we must improve the way we produce and consume food while reducing the “excessive demand for animal products.” On top of that, this has to be done in a way that agrees with the planet.

“We are convinced that cultivated meat will become an essential part of the food on our plate,” said Bart Van Hooland, managing partner of Thia Ventures, a firm that invests at the intersection of biotechnology, nutrition, and health. “What was missing up to now was the technology to make products that will provide the same taste and nutrition as meat from farmed animals and at a truly competitive price.”

That’s why Thia invested in Clever Carnivore, which Hooland says has what it takes to quickly bridge that gap.

With $7 million garnered in seed funding to expand and scale up the company, others seem to agree. 

The round was led by Lever VC, which is no stranger to the alternative meat industry and saw participation both nationally and internationally from McWin Capital Partners from Spain; Thia Ventures headquartered in Belgium and Switzerland; Valo Ventures from Palo Alto, California; Newfund Capital from France; and Stray Dog Capital, a Midwest-based fund with roots in Kansas.

According to Clever Carnivore, what separates it from other startups in the emerging cultivated meat industry is its low cost in an incredibly capital-intensive field. 

As Nick Cooney, Lever’s managing partner put it in a statement: “We’ve been tracking and investing across the global cultivated meat sector since the first such company launched eight years ago, and we haven’t seen anyone come remotely close to Clever Carnivore’s astoundingly low current cost of production, a testament to the company’s phenomenal science.”

With the funding, it’s adding test kitchens to its facility to continue producing cultivated pork sausage, a rarity in the lab-grown meat space. By early 2024, it plans to unveil its prototype product: the Clever Bratwurst. Clever doesn’t plan to stop with pigs and hopes to replace cows and chickens as well, creating sausages, burgers, and nuggets it says will deliver  “a gastronomic experience that satisfies vegetarians and carnivores alike.”

Getting cultivated meat to a price point competitive with factory farming is needed to make the switch a no-brainer. According to Clever Carnivore, its cell culture media costs are one-to-two orders of magnitude lower than any other cultivated meat company globally. The team ahs done so by “optimizing the growth media to support its unique cell lines.” However, Clever isn’t the only one with lofty ambitions concerning the cost of cultivated meat. 

Other startups working toward that goal include Prolific Machines. Using what the Prolific team calls a “biological assembly line,” they’re following the playbook of Ford, but instead of using assembly cars to lower the cost of car production, they’re using it to lower the cost of cell production. 

Another, Laurus Bio, an India-based supplier of growth factors to the drug industry, is aiming to butcher the cost by 35%, primarily by simplifying the post-fermentation processing step of cultivated meat production. 

Others are directly targeting the process, replacing fetal bovine serum (FBS), an expensive product made from cow’s blood, like the Los Angeles-based cultivated-meat startup, Omeat

But for Clever Carnivore’s co-founder and CEO Virginia Rangos, the funding is a testament to what she calls, the company’s unique method, and “the hard work and dedication of our entire team.” 

“[It] reaffirms the confidence that investors have in our cutting-edge science, technology, and business model,” she said in a statement. “With this investment, we are well-positioned to revolutionize the protein market and enhance the overall consumer experience.”

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