Uncommon, formerly known as Higher Steaks, has raised $30 million in a Series A funding round to develop its cultured meat products. The UK-based company is focused on the global pork market, with plans to create bacon and pork belly products using a polymeric molecule called RNA. This technique enables cells to make proteins from their own internal functions, meaning Uncommon can create real meat without using genetic engineering. The company hopes this will enable it to scale its cultivated meat across the world with fewer regulatory challenges. Uncommon plans to use the funding to scale up production and kickstart its regulatory approval process in Europe and Singapore, with plans to target high-end restaurants before moving to supermarkets.
Regulatory hurdles have meant that meat made from animal cells in a test tube has been slow to gain a foothold, with Singapore currently the only market in the world where cultured meat is available for sale. The Food and Drug Association (FDA) in the US recently started rubberstamping such edibles as being safe for human consumption, but some countries are pushing back against the burgeoning fake-meat revolution. Italy is mulling an outright ban on lab-developed food to safeguard its culinary heritage.
Another longstanding challenge of bringing cultivated meat to market has been scalability. Being able to produce large enough quantities of cultured meat at a low enough price is problematic, with some companies pursuing a hybrid lab-grown meat / plant-based protein approach to get their products to market faster. Uncommon says it’s using a technique involving RNA, which reduces the quantity of raw materials needed and makes it possible to scale the process at a reduced cost compared to using genetic engineering.
Uncommon’s $30 million Series A round was led by London-based Balderton Capital and New York’s Lowercarbon Capital, with participation from institutional and angel investors including OpenAI’s Sam Altman and his brother Max. The company plans to use the funding to scale up production and kickstart its regulatory approval process in Europe and Singapore, while keeping a “close eye” on the US market. Singapore is likely to receive approval first as it is the most developed ecosystem for cultivated meat, with other markets to follow.
Uncommon’s focus on the global pork market is a smart move, given that pork is the most widely consumed meat in the world. The company’s RNA technique could also help it overcome regulatory hurdles and reduce costs, making it easier to scale up production. However, Uncommon will face stiff competition from other companies developing cultured meat products, including Memphis Meats, Mosa Meat, and Aleph Farms. These companies are also focused on reducing costs and scaling up production, with some pursuing a hybrid approach that combines lab-grown meat with plant-based protein.
In conclusion, Uncommon’s $30 million funding round is a significant milestone for the company and the cultured meat industry as a whole. The company’s focus on the global pork market and its RNA technique could help it overcome regulatory hurdles and reduce costs, making it easier to scale up production. However, Uncommon will face stiff competition from other companies developing cultured meat products, and it remains to be seen whether the industry can overcome regulatory challenges and win over consumers.