Last year, it was the “world’s first clean meatball” that helped Memphis Meats grab headlines in February. In November, the startup launched an Indiegogo campaign with plans to grow cultured poultry meat in the lab. Today, the company announced that it has successfully served chicken and duck meat without having raised or slaughtered a bird.
“It is thrilling to introduce the first chicken and duck that didn’t require raising animals,” Uma Valeti, co-founder and CEO of Memphis Meats, said in a press release. “This is a historic moment for the clean meat movement.”
To create its “clean” meat, Memphis Meats puts living animal cells into bioreactor tanks and feeds them oxygen, sugars, and minerals until they divide and grow. The company said the taste and texture is similar to that of the real thing, just a bit spongier, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Chicken is a significant part of the American diet, with some 90 pounds eaten by the average consumer every year. Duck, on the other hand, is hugely popular in China, where more than six billion pounds are consumed in total each year, according to Memphis Meats. That’s a lot of bird.
“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,” Valeti said. “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.”
To be sure, Memphis Meats doesn’t claim that its poultry is indistinguishable from the meat harvested from a slaughtered bird. A spokesperson from the company told Digital Trends that it has not yet tested the clean meat in such a way. “Conventionally-produced meat, at its core, is just a bundle of different types of animal cell,” he said. “What we’re doing is finding a way to produce these same meat cells but without the animal.”
Although the company has served it’s cultured poultry to taste testers, the meat is still prohibitively expensive. It currently costs around $9,000 to produce a pound of Memphis Meats’ poultry, compared to a bit over $3 on average for a pound of chicken breast. However, the company hopes to reduce costs drastically as it refines its technology over the next few years. It hopes to launch a commercial product in 2021.