Cell-grown meat startup raises new funding from European heavyweights

German drugmaker Merck KGaAMKKGY, +0.20%  and a top European meat processor are backing a startup producing beef from cattle cells, ramping up a race to transform the global meat industry with cell-culture technology.

The $8.8 million investment in Netherlands-based Mosa Meat by Merck’s venture investing unit and Basel, Switzerland-based Bell Food GroupBELL, -0.48%  fuels a continuing effort to fulfill growing global demand for meat via a process that developers say requires a fraction of the resources used in traditional livestock and poultry production.

Cell-culture meat makers have yet to begin selling any of their products. But the emerging technology has drawn investments from major U.S. meat processors like Cargill Inc. and Tyson Foods Inc.TSN, -0.21%  It also is raising complaints among cattle ranchers and hog farmers, some of whom regard it as a lab-developed imitation of traditional hamburgers and pork.

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Mosa is led by Mark Post, a Maastricht University physiologist who unveiled the world’s first lab-grown burger in 2013, and Peter Verstrate, a food technician at the university. Post’s prototype burger cost $330,000 to develop, but the project encouraged Post to form Mosa, which previously received funding from Google Inc.GOOGL, +0.02%  co-founder Sergey Brin.

Regulatory oversight of meat grown from animal cells is still being assessed, with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture both discussing how the technology may be overseen. Some livestock groups have called for regulations restricting the word “meat” to conventionally raised and slaughtered livestock.

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com:

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