By now, we’re all relatively aware of the perils of factory farming. Poultry, in specific, has been open to criticism — both about the hormones and antibiotics given to the animals and the condition of their enclosures. As such, many diners are thinking twice about how and when they consume meat and investigating how those products are sourced.
Today, the story takes an interesting turn as one of the nation’s largest chicken suppliers, Tyson, has just invested in chicken that won’t ever need to be cooped. It’s grown in a lab, by Memphis Meats. The process itself is pretty straightforward: meat cells are harvested from high-quality livestock, cells capable of renewing themselves are identified (i.e. cells that will replicate in the animal on their own), those cells are cultured into meat, and — after 4-6 weeks, depending on the cut — the meat is harvested.
Not to be confused with other forms of “meat” that are being produced (with big-time backing) to give vegans and vegetarians a more “meat-like” experience, Memphis Meats are 100% real animal protein. In fact, the company calls their product “clean meat,” because when it’s grown in a lab, it can’t possibly have the side effects of antibiotic injections or shady housing conditions that Memphis’s new investor has often been accused of.
Tyson Ventures says this move is an attempt to join the effort to “meet the global demand for protein.” This doesn’t mean Tyson is going to abandon its MO, though. According to Justin Whitmore, Executive Vice President of Corporate Strategy and Chief Sustainability Officer of Tyson Foods, the company plans to “continue to invest significantly in traditional meat business,” but they also believe in “exploring additional opportunities for growth that give consumers more choices.”
The collaboration will certainly give Memphis Meats incredible distribution, as soon as they have a product ready for mainstream consumption. This seems likely to happen sooner than later, as recent Memphis Meats taste tests have proven wildly successful.
Using animal cells and not full animals is a wee bit science experiment-y, but it’s also cleaner, greener, and more humane than the alternatives. The only question is whether associating with Tyson — a company that has been un-apologetic about factory farming — will sour people on this new product before it ever hits shelves.