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Company creates first lab-grown chicken

No hens were harmed in the making of the world's first chook-free chicken strips

Posted : 6 April 2017

An American company has produced the first chicken strips that haven’t required stripping from a chicken. San Francisco-based Memphis Meats, the company that last year cooked up the first “cultured meatball”, says the technological breakthrough will revolutionise a global industry that claims the lives of millions chickens a day.

The lab-grown meat – which the company calls “clean meat” – is developed from self-reproducing cells taken from a chicken, with the purpose of creating a product that omnivores can’t distinguish from the real thing, but with a fraction of the considerable downsides of meat production, including environmental destruction and using agricultural land to grow animal feed rather than crops for human consumption.

To give some idea of how lab-grown chicken could revolutionise the industry, 61 billion chickens are killed and eaten every year around the world – more than a billion in the UK alone. The cost of breeding, hatching, rearing and slaughtering so many chickens could disappear overnight, while Memphis Meats says water and land use and harmful greenhouse gases would be slashed by 90%.

“The meat industry knows their products aren’t sustainable,” Memphis Meats chief executive Uma Valeti has said. “We believe that in 20 years, a majority of meat sold in stores will be cultured.” It currently costs the company just over £700 to make 450g of chicken, so the next few years will be spent working to scale up the process and lower expenses, in order to meet a 2021 target to get the chicken strips into shops.

The company says on its website: “With consumers spending over $750 billion per year on meat, and demand for meat expected to double in the coming decades, one thing is clear: we need a better way to feed a hungry world. Our goal is simple: to change the way meat gets to your plate. We’re developing a way to produce real meat from animal cells, without the need to feed, breed and slaughter actual animals.”

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has said chicken will become the world’s most eaten meat by 2020. As well as aiming to tackle the environmental cost of satisfying that hunger, the company has also succeeded in creating duck meat, which has a huge market in China, the world’s most populous country, where 2.7 million metric tons of the meat are consumed a year.

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