**Lab-Grown Meat: The Milestones and Potential of Cultured Chicken**
**The Rise of Cultured Meat Industry**
Since the completion of the world’s first lab-grown burger in 2013, the cultured meat industry has been steadily advancing. With significant funding, diversification of meat products, construction of large-scale production factories, market entries in Singapore and Israel, and even preliminary FDA approval in the US, the industry has reached remarkable milestones. The latest milestone is the ruling by the US Department of Agriculture, stating that cultured chicken is both safe to consume and legal to sell.
**Understanding Cultured Meat**
Cultured or lab-grown meat is produced by extracting cells from animal tissues without harming the animal. The extracted cells are then mixed with nutrients, oxygen, and moisture inside stainless steel bioreactors. These bioreactors mimic the conditions inside an animal’s body, providing the optimum environment for the cells to divide, multiply, and mature. Once the cells reach maturity, they are harvested, refined, and shaped into the final product using processes like extrusion cooking, molding, 3D printing, or incorporating artificial fats.
**Companies at the Forefront**
Currently, there are two companies leading the way in cultured meat production in the US, both based in California. Upside Foods (formerly Memphis Meats) became the first company to receive FDA approval for its lab-grown chicken. It has established a center for engineering, production, and innovation in Emeryville, California. Initially, Upside Foods plans to produce 50,000 pounds of meat per year, with a long-term goal of scaling up to over 400,000 pounds per year.
Good Meat also received FDA approval and is building a demonstration plant in Singapore. In addition, plans have been announced for a large-scale facility in the US capable of producing 30 million pounds of meat annually. Good Meat was the first company to sell cultured meat, introducing its chicken product to the Singaporean market in 2020. It aims to launch its cultured chicken at a restaurant owned by renowned chef José Andrés in Washington DC.
**Challenges in Cultured Meat Adoption**
While cultured meat is gaining traction, consumer acceptance remains a challenge. A recent survey conducted by the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research revealed that half of American adults expressed little to no openness to trying lab-grown meat. Many cite concerns that it sounds strange or that they question its safety.
To overcome this resistance, educating consumers about the process of creating cultured meat is crucial. However, there are additional hurdles to overcome. Skeptics have raised concerns about the high costs, scalability limitations, and environmental impact of cultured meat. Some studies even suggest that cultured meat could be 25 times worse for the planet than conventionally farmed meat.
**A Promising Future**
Despite the challenges, the progress made by the cultured meat industry is undeniable. While it may be some time before cultured meat is readily available in grocery stores, a future without animal deaths is increasingly within reach. Continued advancements in research and development, along with efforts to address concerns around cost, scalability, and environmental impact, will be crucial in realizing the full potential of cultured meat.
*Image Credit: Upside Foods*