Artificial beef may be the talk of the town in Silicon Valley, but artificial chicken? Less so.
Back in 2008, animal rights organization PETA launched a contest with a $1 million prize promised to the first scientist able to bring in vitro chicken meat to market. The successful product would use animal stem cells grown and reproduced in a controlled environment to create real chicken meat—without having to kill any animals.
This week, after a two-year deadline extension, the contest ended with no winner having come forward to claim the prize.
PETA maintains the contest was a “smashing success,” crediting substantial progress in research and development of in vitro meat. Commercially viable beef hamburgers or pork sausages, the group claims, are “bound to happen in the not-too-distant future.”
“PETA is happy that our contest sparked debate, created a research fellowship, prompted interest and investment from the food industry and dot.com millionaires, and has seen patents pending for breakthroughs in developing the process, from tissue scaffolding to muscle development,” said PETA president Ingrid E. Newkirk in a statement.
Last year, European researchers made a splash with the development of a vat-grown hamburger. It cost about $330,000 to produce, but it highlighted the significant progress that has been made in the development of lab-grown meat. It’s not unreasonable to assume that lab-made chicken and pork are soon to follow.
Startups like Beyond Meat, Modern Meadow, and Hampton Creek are researching other ways to create sustainable, plant-based meat products. Last month, Hampton Creek made headlines by announcing it raised $23 million in a recent funding round. The company, which has investments from the likes of Bill Gates and Peter Thiel, is focused entirely on finding a plant-based alternative to chicken eggs, and has already begun selling a plant-based mayonnaise product called Just Mayo.
Hero image: Flickr user "Marc Wathieu" (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)