clean meat

Startup accelerator Y Combinator, which traditionally backs digital-tech, is investing in clean meat.

The company’s previous success stories include global phenomenon Airbnb, a home-rental marketplace app, and Dropbox, the popular file hosting service. Now, Y Combinator intends to help clean meat innovation nonprofit the Good Food Institute (GFI) achieve the same level of popularity.

Founded two and a half years ago, the GFI is on a mission to create “a healthy, humane, and sustainable food supply.” The organization works with scientists, investors, entrepreneurs, and other startups to mold a future of food that no longer relies on animal agriculture — an industry that is not just detrimental to the animals themselves, but also to the environment. According to one recent study, animal agriculture has an even worse effect on the planet than oil.

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Lab-grown meat could signal the end of the food system as we know it, says Gustaf Alstromer, a partner at Y Combinator.

“The reason we [are backing GFI] is that we actually believe that clean meat could replace nearly all animal meat at some point. [Y Combinator] got interested in it because of the innovation in this industry,” he told Fast Company. “We think that if it works this will revolutionize the entire meat industry and we think that it will probably be entrepreneurs and startups that build the companies that produce that meat.”

Startups and companies such as Just, Future Meat Technologies, and Memphis Meats are racing to bring the first clean meat product to market. Just, known primarily for its vegan egg product, has even predicted it will make clean meat available to consumers by the end of the year. And, according to one recent survey by GFI, it could fly off the shelves. Nearly 70 percent of people who took part in the study claimed they would give clean meat a try and 46 percent said they would purchase it regularly, in place of traditional meat.

Unlike previous startups Y Combinator has worked with, where the accelerator company would invest and receive a stake in the business, GFI will receive a donation, due to its setup as a nonprofit.