Test-tube chicken meat unveiled to allow vegetarians to eat poultry

Sarah Knapton
Southern fried chicken created from the world's first test-tube poultry - Memphis Meats 

The world's first test-tube chicken meat has been unveiled by scientists who hope to start supplying supermarkets within four years.

Memphis Meats founders Dr Uma Valeti and Dr Nicholas Genovese allowed food experts to sample their southern fried chicken recipe at an event in San Francisco on Wednesday.

Although other companies have successfully created beef, it is the first time scientists have successfully grown poultry meat from stem cells. They also created duck meat.

It marks a huge step forward for the 'clean meat' movement which aims to end the cruelty and environmental impact of battery farming while creating a product which even vegetarians could eat. 

Dr Uma Valeti (centre) watches the finishing touches being made to the dish Credit: Memphis Meats 

“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 Dr Valeti, the CEO of Memphis Meats.

“Chicken and duck are at the center 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.”

Clean Duck a l'orange  Credit: Memphis Meats 

The scientists believe that cultured meat will eventually entirely replace raising animals and that future generations will deem eating animals as unthinkable. 

In order to grow meat in a lab,the scientists isolate chicken and duck stem cells that have the ability to regenerate, before culturing them in a nutrient soup of sugars and minerals.

These cells are then allowed to develop inside bioreactor tanks into skeletal muscle that can be harvested in just a few weeks. 

Emily Byrd, of the Good Food Institute, was one of the first to taste the duck meat.

"The duck a l'orange was tender, juicy, and loaded with savory flavors," she said. 

"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. Nothing could taste better.

"Next, I moved on to some fried chicken. I was able to taste the future. And I went back for seconds."

Test-tube southern fried chicken  Credit: Memphis Meats 

Last February the same team introduced the world's first 'clean' meatball, made from beef cells.

Modern animal agriculture consumes on-third of the world's grains and about a quarter of all land is used for grazing.

The firm says its cutting-edge technique produces 90 percent less greenhouse emissions, consumes less nutrients and does not require antibiotics or other additives used in traditional meat production.

However the current cost of producing meal-sized piece of meat is prohibitive, coming in at around £15,000. The team says that it will cut costs dramatically, with a target launch of its products to consumers in 2021.

The first edible test-tube meat was revealed by Dutch scientist Mark Post in 2013. Dubbed the 'Frankenburger', the beef pattie took three months to grow at a cost of £220,000. 

But with no fat in the burger, it tasted more like an "animal protein cake" somewhere between a soy based meat substitute and a burger from fast food restaurant, according to Josh Schonwald, a food writer who became the first to test it.

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