Armed with the exclusive license to the university’s patent on the creation of “muscle-like tissue” from plants, Brown formed Cumberland, Md.-based Savage River Farms. He initially raised money from friends and family, followed by a round of funding from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a venture capital firm. A second round of funding, he says, came from an investor group led by Twitter cofounders Biz Stone and Evan Williams.
Savage River Farms expects to roll out its chicken alternative at Whole Foods and other retail outlets this year, and they’re working on ersatz beef. So far, the products still cost more than meat, but less than some other meat alternatives. Brown continues to partner with the University of Missouri on research and with the University of Maryland on product development.
Chris Kerr, entrepreneur-in-residence at the Humane Society of the United States, says Savage River Farms is “absolutely at the forefront in terms of innovation.”
Brown says he learned the confidence of his own convictions from classes with government Professor William Frasure and history Professor Bruce Kirmmse (now emeritus). An environmental ethics course with philosophy Professor Lawrence Vogel helped shape his pragmatic approach to sustainability.
Reflecting on his approach to teaching the course, Vogel said, “The focus of environmental ethics really ought to be pragmatic. … It’s an anti-philosophy position.”
After graduating from Connecticut College, Brown earned an MBA at Columbia University and worked in energy and electricity restructuring. His long-term goal: to become the next Perdue or Tyson Foods. Without the chickens, of course. — David A. Brensilver
Brown's innovative work at Beyond Meat has captured the imagination of the media, where he has been featured by the New York Times (in 2015, 2014 and 2012), Fortune (in 2015, 2014 and 2013), CBS News, Fast Company, the Los Angeles Times (in 2015 and 2013), Slate, The Atlantic and the Today Show.