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We tried the first lab-grown sausage made without killing animals. It was smoky, savory, and tasted like breakfast

We tried the first lab-grown sausage made without killing animals. It was smoky, savory, and tasted like breakfast

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Katie Canales/Business Insider
  • Silicon Valley clean meat startup New Age Meats made history on Monday by letting journalists taste the first cultured pork sausage made in a lab.
  • New Age Meats’ sausage is the first cell-based meat to be made using both fat and muscle cells, which could prove key to nailing the flavor of traditional meat.
  • Here’s what the farm-free sausage was like.

On a Monday night at a brewery in San Francisco’s hipster Mission District, the co-founders of a startup called New Age Meats helped cook up samples of pork sausage made entirely out of cells grown from a live pig named Jessie.

As scientists-turned-entrepreneurs Brian Spears and Andra Necula watched, the sausage they’d spent the past two months making at a nearby lab began to sizzle. Slowly, its sides turned brown and, as the aroma of breakfast meat filled the room, samples were doled out to taste.

New Age Meats aims to make meat from animal cells without killing any actual animals. They are one of roughly half a dozen nascent companies aiming to create an alternative to factory farming. In so doing, they hope to reduce waste, improve health, and eliminate animal suffering.

New Age Meats’ sausage was the first in history to be made with fat and muscle cells – an important combination that could prove key for nailing the taste of “cell-based” or “cultured” (meaning simply: not from slaughter) meat. Here’s what it was like.


Around 5 PM on Monday evening, a group of journalists and potential investors gathered at Standard Deviant Brewery for a taste of the first pork sausage made in a lab from the cells of a live pig.

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Katie Canales/Business Insider

After filling up on vegan appetizers and snacks, New Age Meats co-founder Brian Spears told us what to expect. He also shared a photo of Jessie, whose cells — taken from a small biopsy on her side — went into the meat we’d be eating.

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Katie Canales/Business Insider

Spears and co-founder Andra Necula teamed up with Matt Murphy, a butcher and sausage chef, to get their recipe just right. Because the sausage casing they used was vegan, it was extra delicate — meaning Murphy had to be careful to avoid too much blistering, which could cause the links to break apart in the pan.

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Katie Canales/Business Insider

After about five minutes of cooking, the sausage was done. As the room filled with the aroma of breakfast meat, Murphy nudged the links onto a serving plate.

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Katie Canales/Business Insider

Necula and Murphy sliced the sausage into bite-sized pieces. In addition to pork fat and muscle from Jessie, the links contained spices like sage, ginger, and white pepper as well as vegetable stock and soy protein.

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Katie Canales/Business Insider

When I got my hands on my sample of sausage, I was ecstatic. This was the first meat made from a lab instead of on a factory farm that I’d ever tasted. After spearing it with my toothpick, I went in for a bite.

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Katie Canales/Business Insider

The flavor was smoky and savory. The texture was distinctly sausage-like. It tasted like meat. Then again, it is meat.

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Katie Canales/Business Insider

As we ate, Spears explained that all the material for the meat came from a single biopsy from Jessie. Spears and Necula coaxed the tiny cell sample into developing billions of fat and muscle cells in the lab, giving rise to the key ingredients in the sausage.

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Katie Canales/Business Insider

A chemical engineer by training, Spears said he chose to host the tasting at a brewery because these types of facilities — with their sleek silver brewer’s vats — are the same kind of places where the meat of the future will be produced.

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Katie Canales/Business Insider

Until that day arrives, New Age Meats faces several obstacles in turning its prototype sausages into a product that could be sold in restaurants. Cost is the first.

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Dutch scientist Mark Post became the first person in the world to make a beef burger from cow cells in 2013. The patty cost $330,000 to produce.
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REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Getting to a price consumers would be willing to pay at a restaurant is still at least five to 10 years away, according to several CEOs of the leading cultured meat companies.

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Flickr/Christopher Craig

Another issue is texture. Making a sausage, patty, fish cake, or any other product that combines several ingredients with ground meat is nowhere near as difficult as mimicking the intricate texture and flavor of a steak or a chicken breast. “Wagyu beef” — with its complex marbling and texture — “would be the holy grail,” said Spears.

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hlphoto/Shutterstock

Necula said she and Spears planned to continue working on products in the sausage realm, but they’re exploring options that include products made with beef and crab too. “We think we’ll be ready to go to market in a couple years,” Spears said.

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Courtesy of New Age Meats
Startups aiming to grow meat from animal cells are abandoning the term ‘clean meat’ — here’s what they want you to call it instead

Startups aiming to grow meat from animal cells are abandoning the term ‘clean meat’ — here’s what they want you to call it instead

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Shutterstock
  • Some startups aiming to create real meat from animal cells are abandoning the term “clean meat.”
  • In a meeting following a conference on alternatives to traditional meat, CEOs and representatives from those companies decided the term “clean” comes with too much baggage.
  • The startups are also working to create an industry trade organization focused on working more closely with traditional meat companies.

CEOs from a handful of startups working to create meat from animal cells have decided there’s one thing they don’t want their product to be called: clean.

Some startups had been using the term “clean meat” as a moniker for real meat grown in a lab from animal cells. But following a spirited discussion behind closed doors on Friday, the leaders of at least five startups decided that the name comes with too much negative baggage.

Clean implies superiority, or that one method is better than another, Uma Valeti, the founder and CEO of a startup called Memphis Meats, which aims to make duck, chicken, and beef without slaughter, told Business Insider.

His comments came at the end of a panel on the future of meat at a conference organized by the non-profit Good Food Institute but before the closed-door meeting, which was held later that day.

Instead of calling their products “clean,” a term the startups had used to distinguish themselves from factory-farmed meat and plant-based meat alternatives like the Impossible Burger, the companies plan to use the phrase “cell-based,” Brian Spears, the founder of New Age Meat, another startup aiming to make meat from animal cells, told Business Insider.

It’s a big move for the industry, which has grown from a few small ventures to a significant and organized group of nearly a dozen startups and established companies.

At their meeting, the representatives of these cultured-meat startups also agreed to form an industry trade organization to represent themselves. They hope the move will allow for better collaboration with traditional meat companies, but have not released any further details on that work.

‘We want to make winners instead of losers’

Deciding what to call meat that doesn’t come from a farm has become tricky business in recent months.

In the past, cultured-meat companies floated the idea of labels emphasizing that their products come from labs instead of slaughterhouses. That’s where the word “clean” originated.

Other startups have said their products should simply be called “meat,” because at their core, they are the same as traditional meat.

But traditional meat producers are not fans of those options.

The US Cattlemen’s Association recently filed a petition to the US Department of Agriculture that would limit using the terms “beef” and “meat” to products “born, raised, and harvested in the traditional manner.” In Missouri, that language just became law, meaning that any product made without slaughter couldn’t be called meat.

That underscores the need for a separate label for animal products coming out of startups that don’t rely on farms.

Still, alternatives like “farm-free” don’t work either, some of the CEOs said. That’s because not all traditional meat is produced in factory farms, and because it emphasizes what the startups are seeking to avoid, rather than what they aim to represent.

“We’d rather define ourselves by what we are, as opposed to what we are not,” Niya Gupta, the co-founder and CEO of Fork & Goode, a startup aiming to make pork from animal cells, told Business Insider before the closed-door meeting on Friday.

Spears said the term “cell based” also will make it easier for companies like his to collaborate with traditional meat companies, who may have felt antagonized by the term “clean.”

“Cell-based meat is a better label to bring them on board,” Spears said. “We want to make winners instead of losers. Losers will fight you, winners will fight with you.”

A battle is brewing over the future of meat, and it could mean the US fumbles on a revolutionary new market

A battle is brewing over the future of meat, and it could mean the US fumbles on a revolutionary new market

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Shutterstock
  • The race among startups to create the first meat without slaughter needs a referee – and right now, there’s a battle raging over who it will be.
  • In a letter sent Wednesday to the White House budget office, congressmembers said they were upset and disappointed that the USDA was not included in an FDA public meeting to discuss cultured meat.
  • The controversy could prove too inconvenient for startups working on cultured (or “clean”) meat. Some have suggested they might take their products to other countries instead.

The race among startups to create the first meat without slaughter needs a referee – and right now, there’s a battle raging over who it will be.

Clean or cultured meat, which is made using animal cells instead of the flesh of slaughtered animals, could decrease waste, lessen the environmental footprint of meat production, and provide a more ethical way to eat meat. While a number of startups are working on creating the first clean meat products, none has yet succeeded in bringing one to market. The technology is early and the products are still too expensive to create something that’s viable for retail.

Two main federal agencies oversee the world of meat production: the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But it’s unclear which one has jurisdiction of clean or cultured meat, which is continuing to inch closer to our plates.

That could prove to be inconvenient for startups, who may take their products to other countries instead of wading into a federal turf war here in the US. The governments of Israel and Japan, for example, have each recently announced investments in startups working on clean meat and fish.

The battle began earlier this month when, shortly after the FDA announced it was planning to hold a public meeting on the topic of cultured meat, the White House Domestic Policy Council asked members of both the USDA and the FDA to sit down and discuss it.

steak

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Shutterstock

After that meeting, the USDA expected to be invited to the FDA’s public cultured meat meeting (or have the event called off), according to a letter sent Wednesday to the White House budget office by members of two congressional groups overseeing topics related to the USDA and FDA. But that’s not what happened, the authors of the letter wrote.

“Our expectation was that the White House meeting would direct USDA and FDA to coordinate on this issue, including the July 12 meeting. However, that was not the result based upon FDA’s published agenda,” the letter said.

It’s unclear what will happen next.

The USDA clearly wants a more prominent seat at the table and a more direct role in the work the FDA is doing on cultured meat.

“While we appreciate the FDA’s interest in overseeing aspects of the regulation of these innovative products, the US Department of Agriculture also has an obvious role in ensuring their safety and accurate labeling,” the authors of the letter wrote, adding that they felt that the USDA “should be included in the meeting Thursday,” but “if that is not possible … there should be a follow up meeting with both agencies as equal participants.”

Thursday’s meeting agenda did not include any participation from the USDA.

It did, however, include presentations from several startups working in the space, including two San Francisco-based startups: Just (formerly Hampton Creek), which is known for its vegan mayo and egg scramble and claims to be near finalizing a turkey or chicken-based cultured meat product, and Finless Foods, which is creating fish meat from fish cells.

“We believe we can produce meat that is infinitely more efficient than conventional approaches with a fraction of the greenhouse gas emissions and water use,” Peter Licari, Just’s Chief Technology Officer, said during a presentation at the meeting. “Despite the challenges ahead … that’s where we’re headed.”

The USDA and FDA appear to agree. Now they just need to figure out how to oversee it.

“Both agencies should be working collaboratively on a scientific approach towards a framework to regulate these products,” the letter read.

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