Lab-grown beef is so 2016. The here and now is all about lab-grown poultry, with not a battery cage in sight.
Farming enough food to satisfy a bulging global population is proving a tall ask, with strains throughout the production chain growing more and more visible.
Logging of forests to create space for crops, finding the water, and feeding the expanded number of cattle, chickens, pigs and ducks needed to satisfy human demand and, somehow, keep everyone happy, is perhaps a recipe for disaster.
Luckily, there are some people thinking of ways to avoid mass production logjams, using innovative approaches to solve the problem.
For example, entomophagy – the term used to describe eating insects – recently inspired art graduate Lara Hanlon’s éntomo project. Looking at sustainability, Hanlon came across food of the future and was hooked.
Will weening people off their beef burgers prove too difficult, though? Luckily, Memphis Meats is going down a different route.
Based in the US, Memphis Meats is developing methods to produce meat directly from animal cells, “without the need to feed, breed or slaughter animals”.
The company originally had a three-year plan to get its ‘sustainable’ meat into restaurants though, well into its second year, that looks unlikely. However, its five-year plan to get its lab-grown meat to your local store is still on, especially now that its first ‘clean poultry’ dishes have been developed – a full 12 months after the beef equivalents.
How does it work? Well, the meat develops from stem cells harvested from cows, pigs, chickens and ducks. It then grows on petri dishes into the tangible, edible food pictured below (southern fried chicken on top, with duck à l’orange below).
“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,” said Uma Valeti, co-founder and CEO of Memphis Meats.
“Chicken and duck are at the centre of the table in so many cultures around the world, but the way conventional poultry is raised creates huge problems for the environment, animal welfare and human health. It is also inefficient.
“We aim to produce meat in a better way, so that it is delicious, affordable and sustainable.
“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.”