As if Tofurky wasn’t disruptive enough, now lab-grown meat might be coming to claim its own space at the holiday table. A lab-grown meat company called Memphis Meats, which produced a lab-grown meatball earlier this year, now says it’s interested in growing other proteins, TechCrunch reports — including Thanksgiving turkeys.
So far the company has raised more than $53,000 via crowdfunding, which it says will be used to produce more products that will “innovate the meat industry” as well as “save some of the nearly 50 million birds from the slaughter each Thanksgiving.” The turkeys of the future may still be several years in the making, however: Memphis Meats hopes its products will hit shelves in the next five years.
Meat grown in a lab is also known as cultured meat (or sometimes even "in vitro" meat), meaning it’s derived from animal cells. In an interview with Eater earlier this year, Memphis Meats' co-founder Uma Valeti said his company’s products “are not mock meats or plant-based meats. They are real meat, grown from animal cells, without the actual animals.”
Lab-grown meat producers argue their high-tech food is safer than traditional meat, because production doesn’t introduce the risk of bacterial pathogen contamination. And of course, lab-grown meat also doesn’t require the slaughter of animals, which could lead to a lot more pardoned turkeys in the future.
But meat grown in a petri dish doesn’t exactly sound appetizing, which is why some are trying to rebrand it as “clean food.” It is a burgeoning industry, however, and one with financial support from venture capital firms and tech titans like Bill Gates. There are a number of companies looking to compete in the “in-vitro meat” space, though none are offering their products to consumers yet — but perhaps the breakout success of the plant-based Impossible Burger indicates consumers are growing more receptive to alternative meats.