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Mayo-scandal firm Hampton Creek from San Francisco going whole hog for Frankenmeat: report

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Unicorn meat could be on the menu as soon as the Christmas after next.

That would be meat made by a unicorn, not meat from a unicorn.

San Francisco food startup Hampton Creek, whose $1.1 billion valuation gives it the legendary status of the one-horned beast, and whose alleged affinity for the purchase of its own products once gave it a black eye, claims it will have lab-grown meat on the market within a year and a half, according to a new report.

“For the last year, it has been secretly developing the technology necessary for producing lab-made meat and seafood,” online magazine Quartz reported.

The firm will have “something out there on the marketplace” by the end of 2018, CEO Josh Tetrick told Quartz.

One or two major traditional meat producers will invest in the company soon as a result of ongoing talks, Tetrick said.

Now, Hampton Creek has a hurdle: to make Frankenmeat with current methods, blood sucked from the fetuses of pregnant cows — aka “fetal bovine serum” — must be mixed up in a vat with meat cells and other goodies to trigger the cells to reproduce, according to Quartz. And while fetal bovine serum is not nearly so rare as fetal unicorn serum, supplies are apparently limited.

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“But Hampton Creek says its scientists are investigating other ways to trigger cells to reproduce, by replacing the cow blood with nutrients coming from plants,” the magazine reported.

If the company can get a lab-grown meat product to market in the time-frame claimed, it may beat another Bay Area firm, Memphis Meats. Memphis last year said it had made beef meatballs in the lab, and in March announced it had created Frankenchicken and Frankenduck, although it didn’t use those exact words. However, Memphis said it was aiming for a 2021 product launch, long after Hampton Creek’s target date.

Hampton Creek gained a measure of infamy after a report last year alleged that company executives had launched a quiet campaign to pay people to go into grocery stores and buy large amounts of the firm’s “Just Mayo” vegan faux mayonnaise.

“In addition to buying up hundreds of jars of the product across the U.S., contractors were told to call store managers pretending they were customers and ask about Just Mayo,” Bloomberg reported. “Strong demand for a product typically prompts retailers to order more and stock it in additional stores.”

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More recently, retailer Target yanked Just Mayo and other Hampton Creek products from its shelves over purported food-safety concerns. Hampton Creek strongly disputed that there was any cause for concern over its products.

Photo: Steak from a cow, not from a lab – yet (Wikimedia Commons/FotoosVanRobin)

Tags: food, Frankenmeat, Hampton Creek, Just Mayo, lab-grown, mayo, meat, Memphis Meats, vegan

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