The Future Is... Fake Chicken

You may have heard Adriene Hill's story on fake chicken on the Marketplace Morning Report. But, why chow down on something fake when you can get the real thing?

We asked Dr. Fu-Hung Hsieh.

He and his team of researchers at University of Missouri have come up with a sustainable chicken alternative. Check out the video to see how it's made... and how it tastes.

We talked to Dr. Hsieh about his work and his vision for the future.

Dr. Fu-Hung Hsieh
Professor, Biological Engineering Department
University of Missouri

1) Explain your work in one paragraph.

Develop an energy-efficient technology for producing products that exhibit whole muscle meat-like visual appearance and taste sensation using renewable plant-based proteins and fibers. These products closely resemble chicken or turkey breast meat but deliver more high quality protein. They are expected to appeal to both vegetarian and non-vegetarian consumers.

2) What's your hope about the future?

More people will be willing to commit themselves to become a steward of earth, make a concerted effort so that their lifestyle will become more environmentally friendly.

3) What's your fear about the future?

The general public and our policy makers choose to ignore or refuse to face the reality of accelerated environmental changes due to man-made activities. Consumers refuse to make a shift to a more sustainable product and lifestyle.

4) How does your work help prepare for the future?

Our work is just one of many that lead to a more sustainable food product. We hope by providing a product that looks like chicken, feels like chicken and tastes like chicken, it will be easier for consumers to accept and gradually make the shift in their food choice.

5) What advice do you have for others to prepare for the future?

We have to think of our children. Our attitudes and actions toward environmental sustainability will have a profound impact to our future generations.

6) How optimistic are you about the future?

Every crisis leads to a new opportunity. While there might be setbacks from time to time, overall tomorrow will be better. Humans are living longer and lead to more productive lives. The advances in technology, internet, medicine, environmental remediation, and many other key areas will help us confront and overcome many new challenges we may face. We will recognize that we have to be a steward of earth. It is a small world after all.

About the author

Angela Kim is the Marketplace Public Insight analyst. She is responsible for outreach efforts that engage the public and encourage them to share their insights on topics Marketplace covers via social media, multimedia projects, and the Public Insight Network. Follow Kim on Twitter @angelaishere
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Speaking as Jew, vegetarian chicken is a great product. My family already eats a lot of fake meat for kosher reasons. My only complaint about it is that it costs considerably more than non-kosher real meat. If price came down to be competetive with non-kosher beef & chicken, we'd probably give up the real thing altogether.

This may be helpful to the environment by replacing conventional farming, but Marketplace ought to do a story on permaculture - a holistic method of farming that is sustainable.

The other concern I have is using soy in fake food. 93% of soy is genetically modified (Monsanto Frankenfood) and it contains novel proteins that cause allergic reactions in humans and no long term studies performed on safety.

Soy is also imported from Brazil where they are cutting down the rain forest to plant more acres.

I'm not sure extruded soy fake food is a good idea.

Exactly, soy is far from an environmental savior. In addition to the rainforest destruction, there is the matter that GMO soy is built on a high-energy model (lots of petro-based fertilizer and pesticides, lots of petro-powered equipment needed to run a profitable large farm, etc.)

In addition to the GM protein allergens, there are plenty of people who are allergic to all legumes to some degrees (e.g. peanuts). It's doubtful that adding more allergens to their diet would be helpful.

People were recently hysterical over the presence of BPA in their drinkware. Soy is a phytoestrogen, which will have similar disruptive effects on kids.

The vast majority of the GMO soy is fed to livestock. The vast majority of soy used in meat-alternative and dairy alternative products is non-GMO and very often organic. Read the labels on such products currently on offer at your local health food store and supermarket. Consumers who are seeking alternatives to meat and dairy are also consumers who avoid GMOs.

The vast majority of that GMO soy is fed to livestock. The overwhelming majority of soy used in vegan/vegetarian meat and milk alternative products is GMO-free and very often organic. Read the labels on existing soy-based products in your health food store or supermarket. The consumers seeking meat-free and dairy-free products are also the type of consumers who reject GMOs.

The overall concept; find food substitutes which
are similar or the same as the real thing(proteins
carbos,fats,etc.) and are good for you. But,I hope
we don't over-look the most important factor of
all (safety). Is the substitute safe? In this
greedy,profit-seeking world of ours that we live
in, we don't want to harm ourselves or the human
race. More regulation and testing will need to
be done before we can yield 100% safe results.

Is this soy chicken presently being sold? If so, where can I locate it, under what brand name?

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