Lab-grown meat is a not a new concept. We’ve had the meatball, the world’s most expensive beefburger, and possibly shrimp. Now it’s the turn of chicken and duck.
San Francisco-based startup, Memphis Meats, has produced the very first “clean meat” poultry grown from cells in a lab, serving them up in a taste test that included classic southern fried chicken and decidedly fancy duck a l’orange.
Memphis Meats is one of a handful of biotech companies hoping to create commercially available in vitro meat that has all the flavor, texture, and nutrition of meat, without the killing of animals. Using the same technique as their previous beef meatball, the scientists cultured regenerative stem cells taken from the birds and placed them in bioreactor tanks. Once culturing in a sugar and mineral solution, it only takes a few weeks before they are ready to harvest.
“It is thrilling to introduce the first chicken and duck that didn’t require raising animals,” said Dr Uma Valeti, co-founder and CEO of Memphis Meats, in a statement. “This is a historic moment for the clean meat movement.”
Chicken is the most popular protein in the US. The average person consumes 40 kilograms (90 pounds) of chicken a year, which builds to an annual $90 billion domestic market.
“We really believe this is a significant technological leap for humanity, and an incredible business opportunity – to transform a giant global industry while contributing to solving some of the most urgent sustainability issues of our time,” Valeti added.
So, what did the poultry taste like? Apparently, pretty good.
Classic duck a l'orange. Memphis Meats
"The duck was rich, juicy, and savory," Emily Byrd from the Good Food Institute, who tried the cultured poultry, told The Telegraph. "The mouthfeel was superb and tender. It was incredible to be eating the best duck of my life and know that it was produced in a way that is astronomically better for the planet, public health, and animals."
The chicken was also revelatory. “I was able to taste the future,” Byrd said. “Clean meat is 100 percent real meat, so it tasted just like, well, what it was."
Looks pretty, yes? Memphis Meats
There are many reasons to explore the development of cultured meat, whether it is to supplement or replace traditional meat, eat ethically sound foods that don’t contribute to animal cruelty and death, or to try and limit the contribution to greenhouse gases that livestock is famous for.
All of these startups are optimistically predicting cultured meat will be commercially available within the next 5-10 years, which gives people time to come around to the idea. In fact, in a study published in PLOS One last month, 65 percent of the US-based survey participants said they would try cultured meat.
Are you one of them?