Since then, sponsorships have blossomed to include a grant of more than $1 million to a Dutch research team and the first-ever taste test of an in vitro hamburger, developed by Dr Mark Post. (The taste test is scheduled to take place in October.) The leader in PETA US' contest is widely considered to be Dr Gabor Forgacs of the University of Missouri and Modern Meadow, the first scientist in North America to produce and consume a tissue-engineered meat product. He is currently developing methods for commercial production.
But while cow, pig and fish cells are being grown in vitro, PETA US' primary interest is in replacing chicken factories, transport and slaughter because more than 1 million chickens are eaten every hour in the US alone. As there is no news of a chicken nugget on the immediate horizon, PETA US will extend the contest until 2013. PETA US continues to fund in vitro meat researcher Dr Nicholas Genovese, who is part of a team working on the subject at the University of Missouri.
"There are so many delicious vegan products on the market that taste like chicken, with more on the way, that people are already switching over", says PETA Founder Ingrid E Newkirk. "But lab chicken is grown from flesh, and if that's what some people still want to put in their mouths, PETA US will help deliver it." She points out that at a taste test at PETA US' headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia, last weekend of vegan chicken—not made in vitro—from Holland's Vegetarian Butcher, more than 80 people asked if the samples were actual chicken. The tasters sampled vegan chicken and dumplings, fried "chicken" and faux-chicken Waldorf salad.
Last week, Bill Gates predicted that plant-protein foods will be a part of the mainstream within five years and also said that they present an enormous business opportunity. Gates pointed out that because meat is one of the greatest contributors to climate change and because meat consumption contributes to our national chronic-disease epidemic, turning to plant protein is in the cards.
For more information, please visit PETA.org.uk.