Why Lab-Grown Chicken Is More Than Just Another Ultra-Processed Food


Lab-grown chicken, also known as cultured or cell-based meat, is a novel food product that is made from animal cells grown in a bioreactor. Unlike conventional chicken, it does not require slaughtering animals, using antibiotics, or emitting greenhouse gases. Lab-grown chicken has been approved for sale in the United States and Singapore, and is expected to hit the market soon. But how does it compare to ultra-processed foods, which make up a large portion of the American diet?

What Are Ultra-Processed Foods?

Ultra-processed foods are foods that have undergone multiple industrial processes, such as refining, extruding, molding, frying, and adding artificial ingredients. They are often high in calories, sugar, salt, fat, and additives, and low in nutrients and fiber. Examples of ultra-processed foods include soft drinks, breakfast cereals, energy bars, hot dogs, fast food, packaged cookies, cakes, and salty snacks.

Why Lab-Grown Chicken Is More Than Just Another Ultra-Processed Food
Why Lab-Grown Chicken Is More Than Just Another Ultra-Processed Food

According to Harvard Medical School, ultra-processed foods are associated with several health risks, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and premature death. They also tend to displace more nutritious foods from the diet, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.

How Is Lab-Grown Chicken Different?

Lab-grown chicken is not an ultra-processed food, according to Nichole Dandrea-Russert, a dietitian and author of “The Vegan Athlete’s Nutrition Handbook”. She told Salon Food that lab-grown chicken is made from animal cells that are cultured in a controlled environment with nutrients and growth factors. The cells are then harvested and formed into meat-like products.

Lab-grown chicken does not contain any artificial ingredients or additives. It also has a similar nutritional profile to conventional chicken, with protein, fat, iron, and vitamins. However, lab-grown chicken may have less cholesterol and saturated fat than conventional chicken, depending on how it is produced.

Why Are Some People Skeptical About Lab-Grown Chicken?

Despite the potential benefits of lab-grown chicken for animal welfare and the environment, some people are still reluctant to try it. A survey by the AP and NORC Center for Public Affairs found that more than half of the adults in the US would not try cell-based meat.

Some of the reasons for this skepticism include:

  • Novelty: Lab-grown chicken is a new and unfamiliar product that may not appeal to some consumers who are used to traditional ways of producing and consuming meat.
  • Safety: Lab-grown chicken may raise some concerns about its safety and quality, such as possible contamination or infection from the cell culture process.
  • Ethics: Lab-grown chicken may pose some ethical dilemmas for some consumers who are vegan or vegetarian, or who have religious or cultural beliefs about eating meat.
  • Taste: Lab-grown chicken may not have the same taste or texture as conventional chicken, which may affect its acceptance and satisfaction among consumers.

How Can Lab-Grown Chicken Gain More Acceptance?

Lab-grown chicken may face some challenges in gaining more acceptance among consumers. However, there are some strategies that could help overcome these barriers:

  • Education: Lab-grown chicken could benefit from more education and information about its production process, safety standards, nutritional value, and environmental impact.
  • Marketing: Lab-grown chicken could use effective marketing strategies to highlight its benefits and advantages over conventional chicken. It could also use appealing names and labels to attract consumers’ attention and curiosity.
  • Innovation: Lab-grown chicken could improve its taste and texture by using different cell types, scaffolds, flavors, and cooking methods. It could also create different products and dishes to suit different preferences and occasions.
  • Accessibility: Lab-grown chicken could become more accessible by reducing its cost and increasing its availability. It could also partner with restaurants and retailers to offer more options and opportunities for consumers to try it.


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