The United States has become the second country in the world, after Singapore, to allow the sale of lab-grown meat.
Two companies, Upside Foods and Good Meat, said Wednesday that they have received final approval from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to sell lab-grown meat, paving the way for the first sales of product of the country.
The companies are the first to complete a multi-step approval process for so-called cultured meat, which is obtained from a sample of livestock cells fed and grown in steel vats. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that the food is safe to eat.
With the approvals, the United States will become the second country after Singapore to allow the sale of cultured meat.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Uma Valeti, CEO of Upside, in an interview with Reuters. “It marks a new era.”
The companies, which both produce cultured chicken, plan to serve their product first to high-end restaurants before scaling production to reach lower-cost grocery stores.
This morning, GOOD Meat received its final round of approval from the USDA and was approved for sale in the U.S. This final approval means that #GOODMeat was declared safe to eat and produce in the United States, marking a groundbreaking moment for cultured meat. pic.twitter.com/tWeObB400c
— GOOD Meat (@GOODMeat) June 21, 2023
The upside-down chicken will first be served at Bar Crenn, a San Francisco restaurant owned by chef Dominique Crenn, the company said. Good Meat will sell the first batch of chicken to the José Andrés Group, which is owned by the humanitarian and chef, Good Meat said.
The companies said they are still determining the exact timeline for when the products will hit the shelves.
Cultured meat companies hope that their products will provide an attractive alternative for meat eaters who are looking for a more environmentally friendly and humane option for their cuts, and who can’ g are not satisfied with the vegetarian products that are already on the market.
The USDA outlines four steps for producing lab-grown meat.
- Sample cells from animal tissue are removed, screened and grown to form a bank of cells for later use. The process “usually does not permanently harm or kill the animal”.
- The cells are then placed in a controlled environment – such as a sealed container – where nutrients and other factors stimulate them to multiply.
- When the number of cells increased to billions or trillions, additional factors were added to the controlled environment that allowed the cells to differentiate into types “and acquire the characteristics of muscle, fat, or connective tissue that cells”.
- Once the cells have acquired the desired characteristics, they can be removed from the controlled environment and processed and packaged like regular food.
Upside Foods on its website calls the process “similar to brewing beer” and emphasizes that what it produces is actual meat, without the need to slaughter animals.
Meat production is responsible for about 40 percent of the world’s deforestation, according to Our World in Data, while the UN Food and Agriculture Organization said livestock production generates 14.5 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
As long as this meat costs and tastes the same as traditional beef, “it’s going to stay in place,” Bruce Friedrich, president of the Good Food Institute told The Associated Press.
Also, some people find the idea of meat from cells strange. A recent poll conducted by The AP and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that half of US adults say they would never try it.