Soon, for the first time in history, meat from the laboratory will be available to consumers. Although it is produced by an American company, Eat Just, the Americans will have to wait until the “chicken bites” come on the market here, as it has so far only passed a safety inspection by the Singapore Food Authority. Nevertheless, Eat Just proclaims it as the first step towards a future in which all meat available on the market will be sold without killing livestock.
It is just the first company to be approved among dozens of others working on the development of cultured meats – chicken, beef and pork – with the aim of reducing the impact of industrial livestock farming on the climate. Meanwhile, meat produced in the laboratory should also appeal to health-conscious eaters, as it should be cleaner and drug-free, while animal lovers who still enjoy meat (or appreciate protein intake) will welcome the cruelty-free method of meat production. In the United States alone, more than 7 billion chickens, 121 million pigs and 39 million cows are killed for meat each year.
While Eat Just’s “Chicken Bites” received regulatory approval in Singapore (after a two-year process), the as yet unidentified restaurant that will be the first to sell it has not yet been announced. Even more unknown is how long it will take before such an option will be available in the USA. Eat Just, based in San Francisco, and other competing companies in the U.S. and around the world are also undergoing regulatory procedures to try to get their products approved in the States, so it seems only a matter of time before this happens.
What distinguishes these laboratory-made chicken bites from plant-based meat alternatives like veggie burgers is that they are grown in the form of cells in giant bioreactors with nutrients from plants.
Because the cells used to make this meat come from biopsies of live animals, the end result is not chemically vegetarian – yet no animals actually have to be slaughtered.
Initially, the price of these “bites” may be more expensive than the meat from real farm-born chickens. But Eat Just hopes that the cost will eventually drop to a level where it is more affordable than real meat. In the meantime, other companies hope to achieve even greater success by producing textured meat products such as steaks. Two of the world’s largest sellers of conventional meat, Tyson and Cargill, are shareholders in one such company, Memphis Meats.
While these other companies are still tinkering with their products, East Just will soon be the first to test the market. The company’s CEO, Josh Tetrick, told CNBC: “We will start with a single restaurant and then expand to five, ten, 15 and finally retail.
In the same interview, Tetrick also said that the ultimate – and challenging – test will capture the hearts, minds and stomachs of consumers. He said: “Is it different? Definitely. Our hope is that by communicating transparently with consumers about what it is and how it compares to conventional meat, we can win. But it’s no guarantee.”