(Tech Xplore)—There is a ready consumer base for meatless strips, patties and breakfast links as awareness has grown over the years about environmental degradation, animal welfare abuses and public health risks. But here is a twist: What if you could browse the supermarket aisles not only for meat-free but meat that is animal-free? How cool is that?
What if you knew you were eating "clean" meat, that is meat produced by growing animal cells, without any animals getting sick or assigned for slaughter?
In December last year, Memphis Meats posted a video on clean meat. Who needs to breed, feed and slaughter animals? They said they had another way, a simple process. First, they said, obtain animal cells. They identify which cells are self-renewing and will produce more starter cells in the future. They feed the cells the nutrients all animals require to grow. Once the cells have grown, voila, said the video. Delicious protein packed meat ready to be cooked and eaten.
Well that was back in December. This is now. Jamie Condliffe in MIT Technology Review reported that Memphis Meats has turned its attentions to poultry.
Uma Valeti, CEO and co-founder announced on the Memphis Meats blog that they are debuting "the world's first ever poultry products grown from animal cells."
This is an answer to those people in the world who love eating chicken. Valeti said their technique for meat production could require up to 90% less land, water and greenhouse gas emissions than conventional meat production.
MIT Technology Review reported Wednesday on these animal-free chicken strips. Asking why the focus on poultry could in theory be met with the team asking why not.
Writing in the blog, products are the most consumed meat in the US, said Valeti, and Americans spend roughly $90 billion per year—just on chicken.
"The outfit has announced that it's now made what it claims to be the first animal-free, lab-grown pieces of chicken and duck," said Condliffe, and so far two dishes were crafted, coated and fried chicken strip and duck à l'orange.
The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday posted a video of the two chicken dishes, saying the chicken cooked was never technically born nor slaughtered but instead grown from animal cells in steel tanks by the startup.
WSJ described the tanks as bio-reactor tanks, using the cells that are able to regenerate themselves. The presenter said in the video that the cells are fed oxygen and minerals to grow into meat fit for human consumption.
Don't go looking for the lab meat in food stores and restaurants just yet. The WSJ video noted regulators will need to determine how they will review the meat—and cell culture operations. Condliffe laid out other factors, namely, "lab-grown meat is a long way from being mass-produced, so scale remains an issue. But the most problematic from the consumer perspective is cost."
One pound of animal-free chicken from Memphis Meats is reckoned to cost $9,000. At the same time, he noted that the price will fall over time.
According to MIT Technology Review, Memphis Meats "says that it should be able to drive the cost down fast enough to put its products up for sale to a hungry public some time in 2021."