It’s no secret that meat production takes a toll on the environment—according to Business Insider, “traditional livestock farming accounts for 18% of greenhouse emissions, uses 47,000 square miles of land annually, and exhausts 70% of the world’s water.”
But if the solution to curbing the impact of meat production is growing tissue-engineered meat in a lab, will people get on board? That’s the question San Francisco-based startup Memphis Meats, among others like the Netherland’s Mosa Meat, is hoping to answer. After announcing last February that it had produced lab-grown meatballs, the company has now also developed lab-grown duck and chicken—creating the world’s first lab-grown chicken strips from animal cells. According to some brave folks who attended Memphis Meats’ tasting luncheon, the chicken tastes like the real deal.
In a press release, Uma Valeti, co-founder and CEO of Memphis Meats, said, “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.”
For those wondering “What exactly is lab-grown meat?”, the short answer is that animal cells are placed in bioreactor tanks and fed oxygen, water, and minerals until they begin to divide and grow.
In a culture that revolves around meat—and in a country that wastes 40% of food produced for human consumption, it’s imperative that we look into every viable solution for mitigating the consequences of our diet. The major downside for now: it still costs a ton of money to make. Producing one pound of the chicken meat currently costs $9,000.
But with key meat-industry players like Tyson Foods Hormel Foods taking note, it’s safe to expect that we’ll find ways to bring those manufacturing costs way down. Tyson, in fact, launched a VC fund last year that a representative says “could be used towards meat grown by cell-by-cell.”
Of course, making the switch to lab-grown meat will depend on the consumer. According to a recent study, about two thirds of those surveyed would try in-vitro meat, or meat grown in a laboratory, while only one fifth stated they would not try it. As far as eating it regularly, however, the jury’s still out: only one third of the respondents said they would consume lab-grown regularly or as a replacement for farmed meat. Thankfully, lab-grown meat for consumers is still quite a ways away—it likely won’t be sold commercially until 2021.