EMERYVILLE, Calif. (AP) – Uma Valeti slices into a frozen chicken chop in their kitchen startup, Memphis Meats. He sniffs the tender lot on the fork before taking a bite. He slowly thaws and absorbs the taste.
"Our chicken is chicken … you have to taste it to believe it," says Valeti.
This is no ordinary poultry. No chicken was raised or slaughtered to harvest the meat. It was produced in a laboratory by extracting cells from a chicken and feeding them into a nutrient broth until the cell culture grew into raw meat.
Memphis Meats, based in Emeryville, California, is one of a growing number of worldwide startups that make cell-based or cultured meat. They want to offer an alternative to traditional meat production as they say is harmful to the environment and cause unnecessary damage to animals, but they are far from becoming commonplace and pushed back from livestock producers.
"You will eventually continue the choice of eating meat for many generations coming without putting undue stress on the planet," said Valeti, a former cardiologist who, with founder Memphis Meats in 201
The company, which also produced cell-grown steak and duck, has attracted investment from food giants Cargill and Tyson Foods, as well as billionaires Richard Branson and Bill Gates.
A report released in June by the consulting firm A.T. Kearney predicts that by 2040, meat meat will fill up 35 percent of the meat consumed worldwide, while plant-based alternatives will account for 25 percent.
"The large livestock industry is seen by many as unnecessary evil", the report says. "With the benefits of new vegan meat exchanges and cultivated meat over conventionally produced meat, it's just a matter of time before meat exchanges take a significant market share."
But first cultivated meat must overcome major challenges, including bringing down exorbitant production costs, showing regulators it is safe and luring consumers to take a bite.
"We are far from becoming a commercial reality because there are many obstacles we must deal with," said Ricardo San Martin, research director of the alternative meat program at the University of California, Berkeley. "We don't know whether consumers should buy this or not."
As global demand for meat grows, supporters say cellular protein is more sustainable than traditional meat because it does not require land, water and crops to increase livestock – a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Many consumers would like to eat meat that does not require killing animals, says Brian Spears, who founded a start in San Francisco, called New Age Meats, who served his cell-based pork to curious foodies in September tastings.
"People want meat. They won't slaughter," Spears said. "So we make slaughter-free meat, and we know that there is a huge market for people who want delicious meat that does not require slaughter of animals."
Finless Foods, another startup in Emeryville, makes cultivated fish and seafood. Cell-based versions of salmon, carp and sea bass have been produced, and they work with common tuna, a popular species that is overfished and contains high levels of mercury. The company has invited guests to try their cell-based fishing cakes.
"The sea is a very fragile ecosystem, and we really drive it to the brink of breakdown," says CEO Michael Selden. "By moving human consumption of seafood out of the sea and on land and creating it in this cleaner way, we can Basically do something better for everyone. "The emerging industry moved one step closer to the market in March when the US Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration announced plans to jointly monitor the production and labeling of cell-based meat.
] Food Security Officers will follow to ensure that agencies carefully monitor and protect people from bacterial pollution and other health threats, said Jaydee Hanson, Chief of Police at Nonprofit Center for Food Safety.
regulated, "Hanson said." Do these really solve the environmental problem? Do they really solve the animal welfare problem? It must also be part of the assessment. "
If cultivars use genetically modified cells, they will face even greater scrutiny from consumers and regulatory regulators," said Hanson.
Cell-based meat companies also face resistance from American livestock producers, who have lobbyed states to limit the meat label to foods from slaughtered animals and have raised questions about the safety, diet and environmental impact of cultured meat.
"There are still many, many unknowns about these cell-based products," said Eric Mittenthal, vice president of sustainability at the North American Meat Institute. "We don't really know if consumers are accepting from a taste perspective. We don't know if it's going to be affordable."
Uma Valeti at Memphis Meats said he wanted to help educate people on the benefits of cell-based meat products and Finally, open up the production plant to show people how the meat is made.
The company is focused on reducing the cost of cultivated meat and producing larger quantities. A plate of chicken that cost thousands of dollars to produce can now be made for less than $ 100, Valeti said.
Memphis Meats hopes to sell its cellular meat over the next two years, starting with restaurants, then moving into grocery stores, provided it passes the USDA and FDA inspections.
"We actually maintain the choice between eating meat for humans," Valeti said. "Instead of saying," Give up eating meat or eat a meat alternative, "we still say eating the meat you love."