Free range chickens

Artificial chicken meat start-up backed by investors, including poultry giant

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Israel-based biotechnology start-up SuperMeat has secured $3m (£2.2m) in seed funding to develop lab-grown chicken meat as a “clean” alternative to traditionally farmed meat.

Artificial meat - which used to exist exclusively in science fiction novels - is grown in cell culture using tissue engineering techniques. A culture of animal cells is nourished to encourage the growth of muscle, fat and other tissues, mimicking the processes that occur inside a living animal. Lab-grown meat has been proposed as a more ethical and environmentally friendly alternative to slaughtered meat. The meat industry has long been criticised not just for often poor animal welfare standards, but for its major contributions to greenhouse gas emissions, local ecological damage, inefficient water utilisation and association with food-borne illness.

In August 2013, the world’s first lab-grown beef burger was eaten at a demonstration in London and led by researchers from Maastricht University. Among other artificial meat ventures, Silicon Valley start-up Memphis Meats - which has financial backing from Bill Gates and Richard Branson - has demonstrated itself to be a leader in the field, having presented lab-grown beef, chicken and duck dishes.

Now, SuperMeat, a tech start-up based in Tel Aviv, has announced that it has raised $3m (£2.2m) to develop “clean” chicken meat that can be grown “meal ready” from cells extracted painlessly from hens.

The company had been largely funded through crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, where it raised $230,000 (£170,000). Now, it has secured investments from New Crop Capital, Stray Dog Capital and - perhaps surprisingly - formed a strategic partnership with PHW, one of the largest poultry manufacturers in Europe.

“We’re proud that SuperMeat is at the forefront of the rapidly-evolving clean meat industry,” said Ido Savir, CEO and co-founder of SuperMeat.

“Our team is comprised of a diverse group of top-tier scientists, food engineers and chefs, working together with the best production experts from the pharmaceutical industry to create a new generation of meat products that are sustainable, cost-efficient, animal-friendly and, of course, delicious.”

The start-up estimates that it is approximately three years away from its lab-grown chicken arriving on the supermarket shelves at a similar price to that of farmed meat.

Despite progress in the field, researchers developing lab-grown meats still face the major challenges of ramping up production to a scale and cost that can make them an attractive alternative to farmed meat, as well as matching the familiar taste and texture of natural meat.

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