Agricultural conglomerate Cargill Inc. has invested an undisclosed amount in Memphis Meats Inc., a "clean meat" company developing technology to grow meat from self-reproducing animal cells in labs, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Memphis Meats contends that their new kind of protein is better for the environment than the typical feedlot-slaughterhouse scheme. While some meat companies are working to reduce drugs and hormones used on livestock or investing in plant-based alternatives, Memphis Meats is betting on cell-culture technology to grow meat from living animal tissue in petri dishes and cultivator tanks.

The startup said Cargill's investment was part of a $17 million funding round that included stakes from Microsoft (MSFT) founder Bill Gates, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson and venture capital firms Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Atomico.

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