Scientists have developed a way to grow meat in a lab that could be soon available at your local grocery store, but local experts are divided on how quickly lab-grown burgers and chicken strips will catch on in the Tampa Bay area.
Among the skeptics is Luciano Visentin, a chef at the Hilton Garden Inn in Lutz. Visentin, who grew up in Italy, has been butchering beef and cooking chicken dishes for the last 50 years.
When he heard the FDA and USDA announced a partnership last month to regulate lab-grown meat, so it can be safety sold to consumers, he said he had serious doubts.
“God or nature did not create that chicken,” said Visentin. “That says it all.”
But Dr. Jill Roberts says so-called “in vitro meat” or “cell burgers” are perfectly safe and could help save the planet – by requiring less farm land to raise meat and creating less waste.
“You get rid of that greenhouse problem,” said Roberts. “You get rid of the land use problem, the water pollution problem.”
Burgers grown in a laboratory are nothing new. The Impossible Burger, which tastes like meat but is made only from plants, was created in a lab by a former Stanford University biochemist.
Now an influx of San Francisco startups are developing burgers and chicken strips without slaughtering a single cow or killing any chickens.
In promotional video, one company – called JUST – claims its making chicken strips using just one feather from one healthy chicken.
“It was an out of body experience to… have the chicken that you’re eating running around in front of you,” says a company taste tester in the video.
To make meat in a lab, scientists take cells from an animal and then grow those cells into a piece of meat using plants and nutrients.
Roberts said lab-grown meat could also put an end to food recalls, ending the threat of salmonella and E.coli while providing a healthier option.
“When you take that little cell, you’re taking the cell of a muscle,” said Roberts. “The muscle doesn’t have all the bad stuff that’s in the meat – no cholesterol, higher protein… no antibiotics, no synthetic hormones.”
Roberts said there is one downside: Lab-grown meat doesn’t have the fat that adds the taste.
The upside is that food scientists have already figured out a way to add the taste back in using protein from plants.
But how quickly will meat lovers line up to try lab-grown meat? It depends on who you ask.
“I think it’ll actually get accepted quicker and sooner than people would believe,” said Roberts.
Visentin is still not convinced, telling ABC Action News, “To me? I’m not ready yet.”