The Future of Meat Is Here—Straight From a Lab

For the first time in history, lab-grown meat is set to soon go on sale for consumers. Though produced by a U.S. company, Eat Just, Americans will have to wait for the "chicken bites" to hit the market here, as it has only thus far passed a safety review by the Singapore Food Agency. Even still, Eat Just proclaims it as the first step into a future when all meat available on the market will come without the killing of livestock.

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Chicken fingers, like those shown here, can now be produced without the killing of livestock. Getty Images

Eat Just is but the first company to get approval amongst dozens of others working on the development of cultivated meat—chicken, beef and pork—with the goal of reducing the impact industrial livestock production has on the climate. Meanwhile, lab-produced meat should also appeal to health-conscious eaters as its meant to be cleaner and drug-free, while animals lovers who still enjoy meat (or appreciate the protein intake) will applaud the cruelty-free method of making meat. In the United States alone, more than 7 billion chickens, 121 million pigs, and 39 million cows are killed annually for meat.

While Eat Just's "chicken bites" passed regulatory approval in Singapore (after a two-year process), what hasn't been announced is the still unidentified restaurant which will be the first to sell it. Even more unknown is how long it will take before such an option is available in the U.S. San Francisco-based Eat Just, as well as other competing companies from the U.S. and around the world, is also going through regulatory processes to try to get their products approved in the states, so it does seem like only a matter of time until it happens.

What sets these laboratory-made chicken bites apart from plant-based meat alternatives like veggie burgers is that they are grown in the form of cells inside massive bioreactors with nutrients supplied from plants.

Since the cells used for producing this meat were taken from biopsies of live animals, the end result isn't by chemically vegetarian—yet it doesn't require any animals to actually be slaughtered.

At first, the price for these "bites" may be more expensive than meat from actual, farm-born chickens. But Eat Just hopes the costs will eventually lower to that point of being more affordable than real meat. Meanwhile, other companies are hoping to find even more success by making textured meat products like steaks. Two of the world's biggest sellers of conventional meat, Tyson and Cargill, own a stake in one such company, Memphis Meats.

While those other companies still tinker with their products, East Just will soon be the first to test the market. The company's CEO Josh Tetrick told CNBC: "We're going to start out with a single restaurant and then scale out to five, 10, 15 and then eventually into retail."

In the same interview, Tetrick also noted the ultimate--and challenging--test will be winning over the hearts, minds, and stomachs of consumers. He said: "Is it different? For sure. Our hope is through transparent communication with consumers, what this is and how it compares to conventional meat, we're able to win. But it's not a guarantee."