The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has granted approval for the sale of cell-cultured chicken, marking a significant milestone for the cultured meat industry. This decision allows two California-based companies, Upside Foods and Good Meat, to offer lab-grown meat in restaurants and, eventually, in supermarkets across the country. The approval signifies a new era in meat production that aims to eliminate harm to animals and significantly reduce the environmental impacts associated with conventional animal farming, such as land use, water consumption, and animal waste.
Upside Foods and Good Meat had previously received clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which declared their lab-grown chicken products safe for human consumption. The USDA's approval grants them the necessary federal inspections to sell meat and poultry in the United States. Joinn Biologics, a manufacturing company working with Good Meat, has also been cleared to produce these innovative meat products.
Cultivated meat is grown by using cells obtained from a living animal, a fertilized egg, or a specialized cell bank. Upside Foods produces large sheets of cultivated chicken, which are then shaped into various forms like cutlets and sausages. Good Meat, which has already been selling its cultured meat in Singapore, turns masses of chicken cells into cutlets, nuggets, shredded meat, and satays.
However, it is important to note that consumers should not expect to find these novel meat products in U.S. grocery stores immediately. The production of cultivated chicken is currently more expensive than traditionally farmed meat and cannot be produced on the same scale. According to Ricardo San Martin, the director of the Meat Lab at the University of California, Berkeley, cultivated chicken is not yet economically viable for widespread market availability.
To introduce their products, Upside Foods and Good Meat plan to initially serve them in exclusive restaurants. Upside Foods has partnered with Bar Crenn, a restaurant in San Francisco, while Good Meat will be available at a restaurant in Washington, D.C., owned by renowned chef Jose Andrés.
It is worth noting that the meat produced by these companies is not a substitute made from plant proteins like the Impossible Burger or offerings from Beyond Meat. Instead, it is real meat grown from animal cells, providing a more sustainable and ethical alternative to traditional meat production methods.
Globally, more than 150 companies are focusing on the production of meat from cells, not only for chicken but also for other meats such as pork, lamb, fish, and beef, which have significant environmental impacts.
Despite the enthusiasm surrounding cultured meat, challenges remain for the industry. Upscaling production and reducing costs are crucial factors for making these products more accessible and affordable to a wider consumer base. However, initial projections are optimistic. According to Sebastian Bohn, an expert in cell-based foods, it may take a few years before these products become more widely available in restaurants and another seven to ten years before they hit the broader market.
While concerns exist that cultured meat may initially cater to affluent consumers, the goal is to ultimately offer an alternative that is both affordable and environmentally friendly. By providing a different way to enjoy chicken, beef, and pork, the industry aims to address the environmental impact of traditional meat production while still satisfying consumers' desire for meat-based meals.
[Information sourced from Associated Press]