Lab-made ‘foie gras’: Japan firm claims product could be commercially viable by 2021

By Lester Wan

- Last updated on GMT

Professor Yuki Hanyu is looking at the commercial launch of 'clean foie gras' by 2022 — this dish-cultured foie gras was grown at home. ©Integriculture & Shojinmeat
Professor Yuki Hanyu is looking at the commercial launch of 'clean foie gras' by 2022 — this dish-cultured foie gras was grown at home. ©Integriculture & Shojinmeat

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Lab-grown ‘foie gras’ could hit the shelves within four years, according to the professor behind a Japanese firm working on a range of cultured meats.

Professor Yuki Hanyu is the founder and CEO of Integriculture Inc, which works to develop large-scale tissue engineering technology with the ultimate goal of commercial production of in vitro​ or cultured meat.

The firm is receiving “hands-on mentorship” in an accelerator programme run by Tech Planter, as well as collaborating with the Tokyo Women's Medical University on an algae-loaded designer meat.

Hanyu says that Integriculture has been culturing chicken pancreas, liver, muscle and intestine cells.

He says that the chicken liver cell culture is what some people call the “clean foie gras demonstration”.

Hanyu said Integriculture’s progress in R&D was positive, with its non-food cultured cell products possibly to be commercialised as early as 2019.

In terms of the production of in vitro “clean meat”,​ the future may not be too far away either.

“We are envisaging a 2021 to 2022 commercial launch of clean foie gras,”​ he said.

Before then, further improvements around scale are required.

“For clean meat to be competitive in price, it will require a certain scale. To reach a viable scale, it would take $150m to $370m,”​ he said.

Food security

Therefore, the plan is to start with more immediately marketable cultured cell products, then high unit price foie gras, then on to general meat.

“We can do this because the technology [we] developed is not a meat culture vat but ‘general-purpose large-scale cell culture system’, and muscle cell culture for meat is only one of many potential uses,”​ he explains.

On the other hand, the amount of resources required for cultured meat is significantly less than that of conventional livestock-grown meat. Hanyu says that cultured meat would, for example, require 99% less land and 96% less water.

“This potentially makes ‘clean meat’ cheaper than conventional meat, which suffers from notoriously low resource efficiency,”​ he said, before adding it would also improve food security. “This is very important for various countries ​like Japan, China, Singapore, Israel and the UAE where most protein sources are imported,” he said.

While he acknowledges that society-wide acceptance may take a generational change, he added: “Overall, we expect consumer acceptance to be very heterogeneous, and probably young people would be more open.”

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