- Good Meat served its "cultivated" chicken at the UN climate summit in Egypt.
- The chicken was grown from a cell taken from an egg and put in a bioreactor to multiply.
- The company's CEO, Josh Tetrick, said lab-grown meat could cut the carbon footprint of farming.
SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt — It tastes like, well, chicken.
Chicken grown in a bioreactor that doesn't require farmland or slaughtering an animal made it on the menu at the United Nations' global climate summit, and I got to try it.
Cultivated meat is getting attention at the UN's COP27 meeting because at least 14% of global greenhouse-gas emissions come from animal agriculture, largely driven by beef and dairy cattle. Reducing those emissions could help the world deal with the climate crisis.
Good Meat went to great lengths to get its "cultivated" chicken served in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, where the COP27 meeting is taking place. Right now, the chicken is available only in small amounts in Singapore, which in late 2020 approved the meat as safe for people to eat.
Officials from Good Meat — a division of Eat Just — and Singapore had to secure special approval from Egyptian food-safety authorities before hosting a series of free three-course dinners for invited guests. I was one of them, along with other reporters, consultants, and animal-rights advocates.
The event took place at a Four Seasons Resort along the Red Sea. Hotel staff shuttled us across the luxurious resort on a buggy to an Arabic-style courtyard lined with plush pillows and colorful rugs. The sound of crashing waves came from a big-screen TV showing ocean scenes.
Josh Tetrick, the CEO of Eat Just, described the chicken as "real meat without the real issues" but acknowledged the enormous challenges to scaling production. He boiled them down to three points: Building large bioreactor vessels requires a lot of capital, securing regulatory approval in other countries takes a while, and "the whole process sounds weird!"
It's also a lot more expensive than conventional chicken. The restaurant 1880 in Singapore sold two dishes with Good Meat's chicken for $23, but the revenue from that still isn't enough to make Good Meat profitable.
Given the urgency of the climate crisis and animal agriculture industry's contribution to it, Tetrick encourages people to remain open-minded.
Tetrick said that the celebrity chef and philanthropist José Andrés, who in late 2021 joined Good Meat's board, has agreed to serve Good Meat's product at one of his restaurants if the US Food and Drug Administration approves it.
But it will take a whole lot of "cultivated" chicken to offset the world's poultry obsession. Americans alone consume 8 billion chickens a year.
The Good Meat dinner in Sharm el-Sheikh marked the first time in 13 years that Ben Williamson, the executive director of Compassion in World Farming US, ate meat.
"I guess I'm no longer vegan," he said.
Here's what it was like to take part in the meal:
The kebab tasted like a chicken nugget.
The "cultivated" chicken skin was very crunchy and meaty. But some attendees were searching for the fried chicken.
"Where is it?" one attendee asked.
Another said the texture was more like a crouton than fried chicken.
The bite-sized pieces didn't look like the breasts or drumsticks we're used to throwing on the grill.
Up close, you could see grill marks. The texture of this dish was most similar to conventional chicken, but slightly smoother.
"When you cut it, it pulls like chicken," one attendee said. Another described a turkey-like taste.
Overall, the meal was flavorful but not filling. After the event, I joined two other attendees at a Lebanese restaurant at the resort, where we shared a mezze platter and dessert. No meat, though!