File - In this October 13, 2014 photo, vegan cheese is displayed during the "Vegan Fest" fair in the Israeli city of Ramat Gan near Tel Aviv. AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ
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A wave of Silicon Valley-style disruption is hitting the food industry. Lab-grown meat, vegan cheese and "animal free" milk and eggs are headed for consumers, often with backing from the tech sector and its financial allies.This new group of startups is essentially hacking the food sector with new ideas and technologies about food and with strong ties to Silicon Valley. Some are using plant protein to substitute for animal products while others are producing foods biologically through so-called "cellular agriculture". Brooklyn-based startup Modern Meadow is developing an edible cultured meat prototype along with bioengineered leather products, which do not require animal slaughter.The product, backed by Google co-founder Sergey Brin, was derided as a "Frankenburger" but nonetheless sparked interest in lab-produced foods.While meat substitutes have been around for years, today's startups are aiming to use technology and innovation that have worked in Silicon Valley.California-based Beyond Meat, which uses soy and pea protein for its products including "Swedish meatballs" and "Southwest chicken strips," says this type of food offers a more sustainable model.It remains unclear if the general public will accept these manufactured food substitutes.
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