$123M Believer Meats Investment Brings 100 Jobs, Futuristic Cultivated Meat Manufacturing to NC
Gov. Roy Cooper announced today that Believer Meats, an Israeli company that is commercializing cultivated meat made from animal cells, plans to build a $123 million, 200,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Wilson that will employ 100 people when it is fully operational.
“We’re pleased to welcome Believer Meats to North Carolina,” said Cooper. “This important decision to build its first U.S. commercialization operation in Wilson County validates our innovative research and development and highly skilled talent while further cementing our state as the best in the nation to do business.”
Headquartered in Rehovot, Israel, Believer Meats describes itself as “the first cultivated meat company to break the commercial viability cost barrier, making cultivated meat that is delicious, non-GMO, healthy, sustainable, and available for widespread consumption.”
Believer Meats has created several lines of animal cells that grow continuously without genetic modifications, removing the need to harvest live animals. The company produces cultivated chicken, lamb, beef, and pork. It says the products have numerous environmental, health, and ethical benefits and will radically transform the global production of meat. Cultivated meat requires less land and water to produce and doesn't use antibiotics.
Until now, cultivated meat has been too expensive to be widely adopted. But Believer Meats says its technology is different. It was developed by Yaakov “Koby” Nahmias, Ph.D., professor of bioengineering at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a visiting professor at Harvard Medical School, founder and academic director of the Israeli BioDesign medical innovation program, and founder and chief scientific officer of Believer Meats.
Nahmias’s technology, which the company licenses from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, uses connective tissue cells that proliferate naturally -- not stem cells explored by competitors. Early in 2021, the company announced it had created a quarter pound of cultivated chicken for $7.50, slashing previous costs by a thousand times.
In February the company, named Future Meat Technologies when founded in 2018, hired Minnesota attorney Nicole Johnson-Hoffman as its CEO. Johnson-Hoffman has over 35 years’ experience in the agriculture, food manufacturing, food service, and meat production industries. The company changed its name in November 2022, in preparation for this global expansion.
“Believer is on a mission to ensure that future generations can enjoy the meat we know and love today. Breaking ground on our first U.S. facility is not only a watershed moment for our company, but for the category as a whole, as it demonstrates our commitment to making cultivated meat a reality,” said Johnson-Hoffman. “The scale of our facility is a giant leap forward in ensuring that we can create meat that is not only delicious, sustainable, and nutritious, but also broadly accessible.”
The North Carolina investment was enabled by the company’s funding successes – including a $347 million Series B round that brought its total value to $600 million. The Series B funding a year ago was co-led by ADM Ventures, part of agriculture giant Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., and an unnamed global tech investor, according to Nahmias. Tyson Foods Inc., the biggest U.S. meat company, also participated.
The North Carolina Biotechnology Center provided a $100,000 Partnership Development Grant to support the community's work with the company, and the One North Carolina Fund provided a $500,000 performance-based grant to secure the company's choice of North Carolina for its facility.
“It is very exciting that Believer Meats is joining the growing future-foods ecosystem here in North Carolina by opening this commercial cell culture facility in Wilson,” said Nandini Mendu, Ph.D., senior director of agriculture sector development at NCBiotech.
“This positions Believer Meats to apply for U.S. regulatory approval and market its products to consumers. Cultivated meat, poultry and seafood requires approvals from both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the United States Department of Agriculture. The FDA just issued its first approval for a lab-grown meat product in mid-November 2022, to Upside Foods, a California startup formerly called Memphis Meats, paving the way for other companies like Believer Meats.
“By building its commercial-scale facility in North Carolina, Believer Meats is taking advantage of the talent, workforce and resources the state offers, such as the NC Food Innovation Lab in Kannapolis. Traditional animal agriculture by itself cannot meet the growing demand for meat in the coming years, and cultivated meat offers a sustainable, safe, nutritious, and cost-effective alternative. Believer Meats’ poultry and other cultivated meat products will occupy an appreciable place in this growing sector.”
Katie Stember, Ph.D., NCBiotech director of life science economic development, provided technical support for the project.
“Believer Meats’ selection of North Carolina for this expansion highlights the strength of our life sciences ecosystem in biomanufacturing as well as food science and ag tech,” said Stember. “Alternative protein technology is an exciting new scientific frontier that has many potential benefits, and we are proud to be a part of that future.”
N.C. Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders added, “Believer Meats will strengthen our growing innovation economy with its advanced technology. North Carolina’s leadership in agribusiness and biotechnology, combined with the largest and most diverse manufacturing workforce in the southeastern United States, will help the company meet the future food demands of a growing global population.”
Although the salaries for the new jobs will vary for the positions which include opportunities for Ph.D.s, scientists, food production professionals, and other personnel, the average annual salary will be $60,087, exceeding Wilson County’s current average wage of $47,863. The new jobs will create an annual payroll impact of more than $6 million.
The One NC Fund provides financial assistance to local governments to help attract economic investment and to create jobs. Companies receive no money upfront and must meet job creation and capital investment targets to qualify for payment. All One NC grants require matching participation from local governments and any award is contingent upon that condition being met.
“This is a fantastic economic development win for Wilson and the entire state,” said N.C. Senator Milton F. Toby Fitch, Jr. “Believer Meats could have taken this project in the world, but they chose Wilson County thanks to the diligent work and collaboration of our hardworking economic development professionals and local and state leaders.”
N.C. Representative Linda Cooper-Suggs added, “These new jobs and multimillion-dollar investments are welcomed additions to eastern North Carolina. Believer is at the intersection of biotechnology and agriculture, and we are confident that they will find global success here in our community.”
Joining NCBiotech, the North Carolina Department of Commerce and the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina were other key partners in the project that included the North Carolina General Assembly, North Carolina State University, the North Carolina Food Innovation Lab, the North Carolina Community College System, Wilson Community College, the Research Triangle Regional Partnership, Wilson County, the Wilson Economic Development Council and the City of Wilson.
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