Starting at the cellular level

Clean meat is meat produced using cell cultures, rather than animal slaughter. The process begins with primary cells taken from a living or recently slaughtered animal. The cells are then cultured and multiply and are then directed to become the constituent parts of meat — myocytes (muscle), adipocytes (fat) and a handful of other materials such as fibroblasts and chondrocytes (connective tissue) to provide structural integrity.

“These relative cell types are the same whether we are talking about a steak or fish or something like chicken breast,” Dr. Specht said. “The ratios are different. The structural arrangement of the cell types are different. And of course the species of origin are different, but what we’re talking about here the ability to grow these cells in a platform portable to many different products and species of animals.”

The dream of clean meat is not new, Dr. Specht said, citing Winston Churchill in 1931 predicting that within 50 years “we shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing.”

The technology advanced slower than Churchill predicted but has progressed rapidly over the last 15 years, especially the most recent 5, thanks to gains in the biomedical field, Dr. Specht said.

“Technology came from cell therapy, where we grew cell cultures for therapy; gene therapy and the regenerative medicine field,” she said. She cited a 2017 report from the National Academies of Sciences predicting clean meat as an area of “high growth potential.”