The U.S. regulators have approved the sale of chicken made from animal cells, marking a significant milestone in the food industry.
Upside Foods and Good Meat, two California-based companies, have been given the green light by the Agriculture Department to offer “cell-cultivated” or “cultured” meat, produced without the need for traditional animal slaughter.
This groundbreaking decision ushers in a new era of meat production aimed at eliminating harm to animals and reducing the environmental impact associated with grazing, animal feed production, and waste management. By leveraging cell-based technology, these companies seek to revolutionize meat production by utilizing a sustainable and ethical approach.
The federal inspections required for the sale of meat and poultry in the U.S. have been granted to both Upside Foods and Good Meat, following the safety approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Joinn Biologics, a manufacturing company collaborating with Good Meat, has also received clearance to produce these innovative products.
Cultivated meat is grown in steel tanks using cells derived from a living animal, a fertilized egg, or a specialized cell bank. Upside Foods produces large sheets of chicken cells, which are then shaped into cutlets and sausages. Good Meat, already offering cultivated meat in Singapore, converts masses of chicken cells into various forms, including cutlets, nuggets, shredded meat, and satays.
Although these lab-grown products will not be available in U.S. grocery stores in the near term due to cost and scalability limitations, Upside Foods and Good Meat plan to introduce their offerings in exclusive restaurants. Upside has partnered with Bar Crenn in San Francisco, while Good Meat will serve its creations at a restaurant owned by chef Jose Andrés in Washington, D.C.
It is important to note that these products are actual meat, not substitutes like the Impossible Burger or Beyond Meat, which are made from plant-based ingredients. Over 150 companies worldwide are focusing on cell-based meat production, encompassing not only chicken but also pork, lamb, fish, and beef, as the environmental impact of traditional meat consumption is most pronounced in the case of beef.
Upside, headquartered in Berkeley, operates a 70,000-square-foot facility in Emeryville, while Good Meat, based in Alameda, runs a 100,000-square-foot plant. Both companies employ sophisticated techniques to create their cultivated meat products, resulting in a similar taste and appearance to conventionally produced meat.
While the initial production will be limited, with Upside capable of producing up to 50,000 pounds of cultivated meat per year (with plans to expand to 400,000 pounds), it may take several years before these products become widely available. The price remains a challenge, although significant reductions have been achieved since the companies began offering demonstrations. Eventually, the cost is expected to align with high-end organic chicken prices, which can reach up to $20 per pound.
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