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'World's first' lab-grown meatball revealed

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Lab-grown meats are a big thing now --and getting bigger.

Memphis Meats, a San Francisco startup devoted to creating lab-grown meat from animal cells, released a video on Tuesday that shows what it’s calling the “world’s first cultured meatball” getting fried up in a pan.

“We watched how the meatball reacted in the pan, we heard the sizzle, we smelled the meat and it was exactly how you would expect a meatball to smell,” Memphis Meats chief executive Uma Valeti said in the video. “This is the first time a meatball has ever been cooked with beef cells that didn't require a cow to be slaughtered.”

Memphis Meats grows animal muscle tissue using stem cells of cows and pigs and feeds them oxygen and nutrients, according to the Wall Street Journal. While there are no animals slaughtered in making the meats, the firm does use fetal bovine serum from unborn calves' blood to initiate the process. 

So far, the cells grow in extremely thin layers—which is very labor intensive and expensive.  Now it costs about $18,000 to produce a pound of Memphis Meats beef--compared to about $4 for store-bought beef.

But the company, founded by three scientists, has been experimenting growing meat from stem cells harvested from cows, pigs, and chickens and says it’ll be selling its animal-free products to high-end customers in three to four years.

The company's first line of products will include hot dogs, sausages, burgers and meatballs, which will all use recipes developed by award-winning chefs.   

Valeti said in the video that his company’s process also produces 90 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than traditional agriculture.  

“The meat industry knows their products aren’t sustainable,” Valeti told the Wall Street Journal. "We believe that in 20 years, a majority of meat sold in stores will be cultured.”

There are other startups also racing the produce test-tube meats.

In 2012, Netherlands scientist Mark Post made headlines for his lab-grown hamburger that came with a whopping $330,000 price tag.  Already production costs are falling and Post in 2014 told the Huffington Post he'd be able to get his beef down to costs of $11 per burger patty.

It's too early to say if we'll all be grilling up lab-grown meatballs, chicken wings, and pork chops.  But for now, there  is a big push to be the first to bring these food to our plates.