I was recently in an Uber in Mexico City, and my driver recommended that I visit a market where I could try lion meat tacos. “Lion meat? How is that legal?”. He explained to me that there is a fully legal and licensed farm somewhere in Mexico that breeds and raises lions for slaughter. The thought that immediately came to my mind was that in a few years, lion meat would be much more accessible because we would growing it in a lab.
Cultivated meat and seafood is a wild concept for most of the general public. Extracting living cells from an animal and then growing it in a bioreactor to create a chicken breast or steak is definitely not yet the standard for the way we consume meat, but every week, we get closer to this reality. More and more companies have been able to show proof of concept for their cultivated products, and even serve it to a select few (read about Future Foodie trying cultivated caviar).
While we don’t yet have cultivated lion meat readily available in grocery stores or on restaurant menus, I can tell you that there are companies that are actively working on products like this (see Primeval Foods below). Although the most popular types of meat like chicken, beef, and pork are what a majority of cultivated meat companies are focused on, a handful are targeting more exotic species. Here are just a few:
Forsea Foods’ cultivated eel is ideal for serving as sushi
Eel – Israel-based Forsea Foods is in the process of creating cultivated eel, which will be the first product in its line of cultivated seafood. The eel alternative, which will be used in dishes like kabayaki and sushi, is made using the company’s proprietary process that is more affordable than other cell cultivation techniques because it uses fewer bioreactors.
Caviar – Optimized Foods works with a caviar farmer located outside of Davis, California to extract cells from the farm’s sturgeon fish. These extracted cells are then grown on mycelium (the rootlike structure of mushrooms), which serves as the scaffolding for the cells and also helps provide the texture of the caviar. The caviar will first be served in restaurants.
Foie Gras – Gourmey’s flagship product is fois gras, which is notorious for being a highly controversial animal product. By eliminating the need to force feed geese and fatten their livers, consumers will be able to enjoy this luxury food product sans animal cruelty.
Lion, Tiger, & Zebra – One day you’ll be able to have lion tacos, but without any slaughter, thanks to Primeval Foods. The New York-based company is focused on developing wild game meat, ranging from lion to zebra and everything in-between. Read more about the company’s tiger steak.
Five Letter Foods’s cultivated reindeer is a nutritionally balanced protein for dogs
Reindeer – Five Letter Foods is technically making cultivated reindeer meat for dogs, so you probably won’t have the opportunity to chow down on a reindeer steak in a restaurant any time soon. This cultivated game meat has a rich nutritional profile to properly nourish your pups.
Japanese quail – Australian-based Vow Food is creating Japanese Umai Quail through its’ brand called Morsel. After a nearly $50 million Series A raise towards the end of 2022, the company shared it would soon be serving its cultivated quail at restaurants in Singapore.
Status of cultivated meat
Currently, cultivated chicken seems to the most readily available cultivated meat. Although it is not yet widely available to the public, it has been served at private tastings, a few restaurants, and sold by street hawkers in Singapore. At this time, the only country to have approved the commercial sale of cultivated meat is Singapore. Recently, the FDA announced that it had no questions regarding the safety of Upside Food’s cultivated chicken for human consumption, signaling that the the United States might be the next country to allow for cultivated meat to be sold to the public.