Feds Give Green Light to Sale of Lab-Grown Meat

2 companies will be allowed to sell 'cultivated chicken'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 21, 2023 2:16 PM CDT
Feds Approve America's First Lab-Grown Meat
Stephen Decker, Eat Just vice president of cell culture operations, is interviewed outside the bioreactor suite at the company's office in Alameda, Calif., Wednesday, June 14, 2023.   (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

For the first time, US regulators on Wednesday approved the sale of chicken made from animal cells, allowing two California companies to offer "lab-grown" meat to the nation's restaurant tables and eventually, supermarket shelves. The Agriculture Department gave the green light to Upside Foods and Good Meat, firms that had been racing to be the first in the US to sell meat that doesn't come from slaughtered animals—what's now being referred to as "cell-cultivated" or “cultured” meat as it emerges from the laboratory and arrives on dinner plates, the AP reports. The companies received approvals for federal inspections required to sell meat and poultry in the US.

The action came months after the US Food and Drug Administration deemed that products from both companies are safe to eat. A manufacturing company called Joinn Biologics, which works with Good Meat, was also cleared to make the products. Cultivated meat is grown in steel tanks, using cells that come from a living animal, a fertilized egg, or a special bank of stored cells. In Upside's case, it comes out in large sheets that are then formed into shapes like chicken cutlets and sausages. Good Meat, which already sells cultivated meat in Singapore, the first country to allow it, turns masses of chicken cells into cutlets, nuggets, shredded meat, and satays.

But don’t look for this novel meat in US grocery stores anytime soon. Cultivated chicken is much more expensive than meat from whole, farmed birds and cannot yet be produced on the scale of traditional meat, says Ricardo San Martin, director of the Alt:Meat Lab at University of California Berkeley. The companies plan to serve the new food first in exclusive restaurants: Upside has partnered with a San Francisco restaurant called Bar Crenn, while Good Meat dishes will be served at a Washington, DC restaurant run by chef and owner Jose André.

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Company officials are quick to note the products are meat, not substitutes like the Impossible Burger or offerings from Beyond Meat, which are made from plant proteins and other ingredients. Globally, more than 150 companies are focusing on meat from cells, not only chicken but pork, lamb, fish, and beef, which scientists say has the biggest impact on the environment. (One problem for the industry: the "ick factor.")

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