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Is Lab-Grown Chicken Coming Soon to a Plate Near You?

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An Israeli biotech startup's quest to revolutionize the meat industry

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High-tech meat substitutes: so hot right now. Much ado has been made about Beyond Burger, the plant-based burger that mimics beef with a meaty taste and texture (and "blood" that's actually beet juice). And while many reviewers admit it's pretty tasty, the faux meat also isn't going to fool any dedicated meat-eater. So what's an omnivore who's also concerned about sustainability and animal welfare to do?

One very real possibility: meat that's grown in a lab, rather than a pasture or a hen house. An Israeli biotech startup called SuperMeat is on a quest to revolutionize the meat industry by developing machines — which could theoretically be installed in grocery stores, restaurants, and even homes — "to organically grow chicken meat using cutting-edge regenerative technologies."

SuperMeat just launched an Indiegogo campaign to help fund this venture, and two days in it's already more than halfway to its $100,000 goal. Developed with the help of an acclaimed biomedical engineer named Yaakov Nahmias, the company offers a simplified explanation of how exactly its chicken-making process works: Basically, cells taken from a live chicken "are incubated in an environment that mimics the natural body of the animal." With the help of a "nutrient soup" and "specially designed bioreactors," the cells then grow and duplicate into a full piece of animal meat that exactly mimics the taste and texture of real meat — "because it is real meat," the startup explains.

SuperMeat claims its product's advantages over traditional meat are many: Besides not having to kill animals, it will also be cheaper to produce than real chicken, providing a more affordable source of protein that people can make in their own homes. Further, the company claims that it's also healthier than real chicken because the lab-growing process is more hygienic and resistant to bacteria; it can also make a product that's lower in fat.

The company intends to focus on three different products: chicken livers, chicken breast, and minced chicken meat. SuperMeat says its ultimate funding goal is $2.5 million, but that the $100,000 Indiegogo goal will allow them to "get the ball rolling," with plans to produce a prototype product by 2018 and fully launch by 2021.

And the team behind SuperMeat aren't the only ones with visions of lab-grown meat dancing in their heads: In 2013, Dutch scientists produced the world's first lab-grown burger, and say the product could hit the market within the next five years.

Watch SuperMeat's admittedly convincing sales pitch, below:

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