Restaurants are often an important stop for cell-based protein companies on the road to progress and eventual ubiquitousness, since they’re an obvious testing ground for prototypes. But as Fast Company pointed out today, Israel-based alt-protein company SuperMeat took that idea a step further and opened an entire restaurant dedicated to testing cell-based chicken products.
Appropriately, the restaurant is just called The Chicken. Its website describes the establishment as “an innovative, sustainable restaurant experience” and “the world’s first test kitchen serving a menu of dishes developed from cultured chicken grown directly from chicken cells, all under the same roof.”
SuperMeat has been developing its lab-grown chicken since 2015, when the company began. Like other companies creating cell-based meat, SuperMeat takes cells from the animal — the chicken, in this case — and grows them in what it calls a “meat fermenter” (aka a bioreactor) to become the muscle, fat, and other tissues that make up meat. Once harvested, the meat can be prepared like the real thing.
Hence the restaurant, which is located in Tel Aviv. The menu is chicken-centric, with its signature dish being a cultured chicken burger. Ido Savir, SuperMeat’s CEO, told Fast Company that “Feedback from multiple tasting panels was consistent that it was indistinguishable from conventionally manufactured chicken, and simply a great-tasting chicken burger.”
That feedback from consumers is important in the evolution of a cell-based meat product. To that end, The Chicken does not charge customers for meals. Instead, they are asked to provide feedback on the dishes. Presumably, a person has to have at least some interest and excitement around plant-based meat, since prospective diners must fill out an application that asks the reason for the visit.
Getting the general public involved in the testing process for lab-grown meat is an important part of gaging how the average person might react to the taste, texture, smell, and look of these products. Along those lines, public tastings abound these days, including Mission Barns’ recent curbside taste test for its “bacon” and Eat Just’s culinary studio the company opened in Shanghai, China. For the extra-adventurous, there’s always kangaroo, which Australian company Vow showed off at a recent “culinary demonstration.”
Dedicated restaurants might be the next step for these companies, and SuperMeat may be opening more than one in the future. On The Chicken’s website, the company notes that the Tel Aviv location is its “first test kitchen,” which suggests more versions of this concept are on the way.