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Tyson joins high-profile backers to invest in lab-meat producer

Tyson Foods Inc. is boosting its bet on meat that comes from the lab instead of the slaughterhouse.

The company’s venture capital arm has invested in Memphis Meats Inc., a company that produces cultured meat without raising livestock or poultry, Tyson said in a statement on Monday. It didn’t announce the terms of the deal.

The investment adds to a string of high-profile backers for Memphis including Cargill Inc., Bill Gates and Richard Branson. The company will use the Tyson funds for product development.

Springdale, Arkansas-based Tyson has already put money into Beyond Meat, a U.S. company known for its plant-based burgers, part of strategic shift for Tyson, which is the country’s largest meat processor.

“We continue to invest significantly in our traditional meat business, but also believe in exploring additional opportunities for growth that give consumers more choices,” Justin Whitmore, Tyson’s executive vice president for corporate strategy and chief sustainability officer, said in the statement.

Consumer interest in meat alternatives has gained traction amid concerns about animal welfare and the environmental impact of livestock production. A November report from CoBank, a U.S. farm lender, labeled protein products made from plants, insects and cultured meat as a top food trend to watch in 2018 and beyond.

Still, it has a ways to go: U.S. per-capita availability of red meat and poultry is expected to be an all-time high this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts.

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