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Silicon Valley start-up Hampton Creek has announced that it is growing cultured meat in a lab.
The vegan start-up - which is best known for its Just Mayo product - has said it plans to make the cultured meat (also known as lab meat or bio meat) widely available as early as next year.
"By the end of next year, we’ll have something out there on the marketplace," Josh Tetrick, CEO of the company, told publication Quartz.
This would mean its product would come to market earlier than any of its competitors', which include California-based startup Memphis Meats - which aims to bring its 'clean meat' to stores in 2021, and Netherlands-based Mosa Meats, which was set up by Dr Mark Post - one of the cultured meat scene's most prominent voices, who created a lab-grown burger in 2013.
A range of high tech meat-alternatives are currently becoming available to consumers - either via retail outlets or restaurants. Impossible Foods' 'bleeding' burger made from plant proteins and vegan 'heme' is believed to be one of the most authentically 'meat-like' plant-based product, and is available in some eateries in the States.
Beyond Meat sells some of its pea protein-based meat-alternatives at a range of US retailers.
Cultured meat is created from the cells of an animal - unlike these products which are entirely plant-based.
Hampton Creek - which is worth more than $1 billion - has faced its fair share of controversy in recent times. Earlier this week major retailer Target removed all the start-up's products from its shelves among safety concerns (though these allegations are as yet unsubstantiated.
The company also hit headlines when giant corporation Unilever tried to sue the brand for violating truth-in-labeling laws, saying that mayonnaise must contain eggs.
As a vegan products, Hampton Creek's product is eggless. Despite this, Unilever went on to drop the lawsuit.
Hampton Creek also gained the attention of the mainstream press in recent weeks, after an alleged coup plot, which resulted in the dismissal of three senior staff members.
What impact could the widespread availability of cultured meat have? Bruce Friedrich is Executive Director of the Good Food Institute [GFI] - an organization that supports meat-alternative companies.
He says: "Once we have clean meat that is cost-competitive with animal-based meat, that will be the beginning of the end of all the harms of industrial agriculture."
Paul Shapiro, Vice President of Policy at the Humane Society of the United States - and author of a forthcoming book on meat alternatives - adds: "The fact that Hampton Creek has so many resources at its fingertips is very promising for speeding up the commercialization of clean meat."
Bruce Friedlich says the GFI is 'confident' Hampton Creek can meet its 2018 goal. "It's an ambitious goal for sure, but yes, with the right resources, it should be achievable," he says.
"Hampton Creek has gone beyond expectation with everything it has set out to do — it went from founding to unicorn status in about five years.
"[CEO] Joshua Tetrick appears to be committed to moving fast and breaking things."
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