A Bay Area startup says they've cracked the code to grow poultry from cultured cells, feeding samples of its co-called "clean" chicken and duck to folks assembled for the company's media event this week.
The company behind the creation is San Leandro-based Memphis Meats, a startup that since 2015 "has raised $3 million in funding to develop a process for creating 'clean' meat by culturing animal muscle cells," the Chron reports.
About over a year ago, the company unveiled its "clean" meatball, which, vegans should note, uses "fetal bovine serum, which comes from unborn calves, to start the cell culture process. That means lab-grown meat, as of now, still requires the use of real animals," Business Insider reported in February 2016.
According to a press release from the company sent Wednesday, "Chicken is the most popular protein in America, where consumers eat an average of about 90 pounds per year, and represents an annual market of $90 billion domestically. Duck has a deep significance in many regions including mainland China, which consumes more than 6 billion pounds per year, more than the rest of the world combined. For the first time in history, both have been produced directly from poultry cells."
The result, the Chron reports, was served to attendees at a Tuesday event. "Strips of the chicken were lightly battered and deep-fried," Chron food writer Jonathan Kauffman says, "while the duck was served 'a l'orange,' a classic French recipe that usually calls for veal-stock reduction sauce (obviously, not used)."
Kauffman refrains from comment on the taste of the meat, but according to the Wall Street Journal, "it pretty much tastes like chicken," which feels a little bit like damnation with faint praise to me. Perhaps I'm just annoyed that Caleb and I weren't invited to give it a try? After all, we had a (meatless) ball with the Impossible Burger.
Another reason I should have been invited: I'm a HUGE fan of director David Cronenberg, a master of the techno-bio-creepy who seems like the obvious influence for this graf from Memphis' press release:
Memphis Meats’ poultry breakthrough was made possible by the unique technological platform that the company is building to produce new clean meat products and accelerate clean meat innovation. The multi-animal platform will allow the company to produce many types of meat and to fine-tune the taste, texture and nutrition profile of its products. The platform will also enable the company to scale up production and rapidly reduce costs.
And this, from Memphis Meats CEO Uma Valeti:
“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.”
Where was I? Oh, yeah, so before you head to the grocery store for a pack of lab-grown cutlets, you should know that Memphis has "a target launch of its products to consumers in 2021," making the events with the meatballs and chicken mere teases for those eager to chow down on the results of their "multi-animal platform."
More accessible, perhaps, is the Impossible Burger, a heme-infused, plant-based patty currently offered at places like Jardinere and Coxcomb. According to an email from the company sent Wednesday, Impossible will be breaking ground next week on a large-scale production facility in Oakland that will "enable us to supply plant based meat to about 1,000 restaurants by the end of this year, up from 8 restaurants today." In other words, we can have the Impossible today, but we'll have to wait until at least 2021 for the chicken of tomorrow.