Feb 05, 2016 I Paul Seaburn

A Test Tube Meatball is Ready for Spaghetti

Meat made without that messy animal-raising-and-butchering part has been the dream of futurists and environmentalists for years. It looks like the day of Petri dish dining may be here as a company has cooked the world’s first meatball made with lab-grown meat. Can you mess up a meatball? Let’s find out.

Memphis Meats was founded in San Francisco (this is already confusing) by cardiologist Uma Valeti, stem cell biologist Nicholas Genovese and Will Clem, a biomedical engineer who runs a chain of barbecue restaurants in the Memphis, Tennessee, area (that explains the name and will hopefully improve the taste). In addition to the unveiling of the world’s first “cultured meatball,” the company announced this week the procurement of $2 million in seed money (the bull market supports lab beef). Here’s CEO UMa Valenti in the press release:

This is absolutely the future of meat. We plan to do to the meat industry what the car did to the horse and buggy.

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The future of meat?

Should you really be talking about horses when you’re touting meatballs (ask IKEA)? And it’s technically not the first lab-grown ground meat dish since a $325,000 lab burger was grown and eaten (a little dry) in 2013. However, Memphis Meats may be the company closest to having a marketable product. It has developed meat out of pig, chicken and beef cells (the meatball was grown from muscle cells) and plans to avoid sullying the delicious reputation of Memphis barbecue by hiring well-known chefs to create dishes with its meats.

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The not-so-secret formula for the Memphis Meats meatball

What’s in the Memphis Meats meatball? Cow cells that can regenerate (like muscle cells) are fed nutrients and oxygen in a bioreactor tank for 9 to 21 days until the cultured meat is ready to cook and eat. They don’t say what it looks like, but the fact that one of the first planned products is sausages should tell you something.

Also, this process isn’t exactly friendly to cows. While the press release says that no cows were harmed in the making of this meatball, the nutrients contain fetal bovine serum that is harvested from the hearts of unborn calves taken from butchered pregnant cows.

On that note, let’s eat!


As the promotional video shows, the meatball looks and cooks like a real meatball and the taster says it tastes like one. Unfortunately, licking the screen is the closest anyone else will get to tasting these meatballs for a while. The company estimates that its test-tube beef, pork and chicken products will be in stores in less than five years – provided the FDA approves and their marketing department comes up with commercials to help consumers get over the “Ewwww!” factor.

Will your spaghetti cuddle up to these meatballs or recoil in disgust? Don’t start the sauce just yet.

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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