Memphis Meats, a San Francisco-based food technology start-up, has now grown the world’s first lab-grown chicken and duck strips.
Tasting (almost) and looking (see for yourself in the image above) like the real thing, the chicken is grown in bioreactor tanks using living animal cells that can regenerate, fed on oxygen, sugars and minerals. The start-up hopes to produce real meat that is delicious, affordable and sustainable.
Dubbed ‘clean meat’, this is a growing industry, with the development of Dutch start-up Mosa Meat and by Israel’s SuperMeat, who are currently crowdfunding to finance the development of their own lab chicken.
According to Memphis Meat’s CEO Uma Valeti, producing ‘clean meat’ uses one tenth of the water, one hundredth of the land and less than half the energy needed to rear live animals. The negative environmental impact of meat production is an increasingly pressing issue. Also, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation predicts that chicken will be the world’s most consumed meat by 2020 whilst global meat consumption rises. Given these trends, environmentally-friendly alternatives will be a necessity.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is fully supportive of this movement, and even funded early research into ‘clean meat’. Although no animals are harmed in the production of lab chicken, it still requires fetal serum, from unborn calves or chicks, to start the process. Memphis Meats intends to replace this with a plant-based serum.
Lab chicken isn’t an instant solution, however. On its current trajectory, Memphis Meats is planning to get its products to market by 2021. It also remains to be seen what policy responses regulators will have to meat grown in a lab and how we consumers will react to it once it hits the supermarket shelves.
Alongside promises of ending animal harm and a vast reduction in environmental impacts of meat production, SuperMeat also promises to create a product that will be cheaper than regular meat.
Might eating cheaper meat grown in a lab further distance us from the food we eat? Do you think lab-grown meat is at odds with developing greater appreciation for our food?