Photo: Integriculture

Foie gras is one of the most contentious animal products out there. In order to get the goose liver so fatty, farmers have to force feed the animals — a practice that makes foie gras both ethically iffy and really expensive. Some cities are even considering banning it altogether.

However, Japanese cellular agriculture startup Integriculture is developing a cultured foie gras that can be made entirely without animals and therefore without the ethical hangups. This week, the company got one step closer to its goal when it did a private taste test of its cell-based liver at the Beyond Next Ventures office in Tokyo.

Integriculture has done previous tests of its product, but according to an email from Integriculture CEO Yuki Hanyu, this version was significantly more sophisticated. He noted that previous experiments were “chicken cell liver paste,” while this new product was “actual fat-loaded duck liver cells.” It apparently tasted much better and had a cleaner flavor than earlier versions. Hanyu said that they didn’t calculate the cost of producing the cultured foie gras.

The company is also finishing development on their SpaceSalt, a powdered version of cell media (the nutrient-rich bath in which cellular meat is grown) which they’ll sell to biohackers who want to grow their own meat at home using the guide from Shojinmeat, the DIY cultured meat community which Integriculture grew out of. in the aforementioned email, Hanyu told me he hopes to start selling the SpaceSalt by the end of this year.

Integriculture is on a tight timeline to perfect its cell-based foie gras and make it in large enough quantities to sell. The startup plans to launch the cultured liver in restaurants in 2021 and roll it out in Japanese retail in 2023, assuming the government approves cell-based meat for sale. That’s not a lot of time, but this latest test seems to show that the company is at least getting closer to perfecting the product.

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