San Francisco-based startup Memphis Meats says it has made the world’s first lab-grown chicken strips from animal cells.
On March 14, Memphis Meats invited a handful of taste-testers to their kitchen to try it. And according to the company, they said it tastes just like chicken.
“It is thrilling to introduce the first chicken and duck that didn’t require raising animals. This is a historic moment for the clean meat movement,” Memphis Meats’ cofounder and CEO, Uma Valeti, said in a press release.
In February 2016, the company said it had produced lab-grown meatballs, made by cultivating cow muscle tissue in a sterile environment. In addition to chicken, Memphis Meat announced on March 15 that it has cultivated lab-grown duck as well. The team said it expects to reduce production costs over the next few years, and start offering its products to the public in 2021.
Memphis Meats is one of many startups aiming to cut down on our reliance on traditional meat. Dr. Mark Post, researcher in Maastricht, Netherlands, made a lab-grown burger in 2013 and subsequently launched a company called Mosa Meats to further his work. Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat sell plant-based beef and chicken that taste eerily similar to the real thing.
Meat production is harsh on the planet. Globally, traditional livestock farming accounts for about 18% of greenhouse emissions, uses 47,000 square miles of land annually, and exhausts 70% of the world’s water.
Memphis Meats says it can produce beef and poultry much more efficiently (indoors and without killing animals). However, as Business Insider’s Ariel Schwartz previously reported, lab-grown meat still requires fetal serum, which comes from unborn calves and chicks, to start the cultivation process.
Memphis Meats told The Wall Street Journal in 2016 that it expects to replace the serum with something plant-based soon.
It also estimates its current technology can yield 1 pound of chicken meat for less than $US9,000 — which is half of what it cost the startup to make 1 pound of its beef meatballs about a year ago. That said, $US9,000 is still incredibly expensive, and lab-grown meat’s costly production is one of the reasons why Memphis Meat has not been able to go to market yet. For comparison, boneless chicken breast costs about $US3.22 per pound to produce in the US.
Chicken is the most popular protein in the country. The average American ate about 90 pounds of poultry in 2016, according to the USDA. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation predicts that chicken will come the world’s most-consumed meat by 2020. (Pork currently holds that title.)
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