If you find yourself torn between cravings and ethical concerns every time you tuck into a chicken nugget, there might soon be a way you can have your meat and eat it too. Memphis Meats has just served up chicken and duck meat cultivated in a lab from poultry cells, meaning no animals were harmed in the making of the meal.
Along with the ethical issues of animal cruelty that surround a carnivorous diet, feeding, breeding and keeping livestock for food has an enormous environmental impact. The animals burp more greenhouse gases into the air than all modes of human transport, and require large swathes of land to be cleared, not to mention all the food, water, and care they need. Studies show that growing meat in a lab setting could go a long way towards solving those problems.
UPGRADE TO NEW ATLAS PLUS
More than 1,500 New Atlas Plus subscribers directly support our journalism, and get access to our premium ad-free site and email newsletter. Join them for just US$19 a year.UPGRADE
In 2013, the public got a taste of beef that had never actually been a cow, but as impressive as that achievement was, it was reportedly pretty bland and cost as much as a house. Companies like Impossible Burger are working on improving the look and taste, and in February 2016, Memphis Meats unveiled what it called a "clean" meatball.
Next on the menu from the company is southern fried chicken and duck a l'orange, which the company says is the first time poultry has been cultivated in the lab. Rather than raise and slaughter animals, the company simply takes muscle cells from animals without harming them and grows them in vats, in a process Memphis likens to brewing beer.
Memphis Meats' duck a l'orange was made from poultry cells, without needing to raise and slaughter any actual ducks
"It is thrilling to introduce the first chicken and duck that didn't require raising animals," says Uma Valeti, CEO of Memphis Meats. "This is a historic moment for the clean meat movement. 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."
Again, the meal was probably prohibitively expensive, but reducing the cost of production is one of Memphis Meats' main priorities, along with improving the taste, texture and nutritional value of the meat. If all goes to plan, the company has set a target of 2021 to finally serve up this clean meat to consumers.
The team outlines the process in the video below.