US approves cell-cultured meat22 Jun 2023
Cell-cultivated chicken can now be sold in the US as regulatory authorities give the final greenlight to two cellular agriculture firms, UPSIDE Foods and GOOD Meat.
On 21 June, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) sent grants of inspection to two cellular agriculture companies, UPSIDE Foods (formerly known as Memphis Meats) and GOOD Meat (the cultivated meat division of Eat Just).
This marked the final step of a dual regulatory approval process that is jointly overseen by the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and means that the companies are now allowed to sell their cultivated chicken products in the US.
Both companies have said they aim to start selling their chicken in select restaurants in just a few weeks.
Non-profit think tank, the Good Food Institute (GFI) said the “landmark” announcement marked “a decisive moment in the history of food and agriculture”.
Products will bear USDA mark of inspection
The FDA had already completed its first pre-market consultation of a cell-cultured chicken product made by the firms, noting that it had no further questions about their safety conclusion.
This month, the USDA issued a label approval, meaning UPSIDE Foods and GOOD Meat had demonstrated full compliance with all pre-market requirements for labelling, including the name of the product, ingredient statement, and handling instructions.
The USDA also issued a grant of inspection to both companies. This indicates that they have met the applicable federal requirements and standards to operate as a meat establishment. UPSIDE Foods and GOOD Meat are now authorised to process, package, and sell cultivated chicken in the US under the inspection of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.
All products that pass USDA inspections will bear the USDA mark of inspection on the packaging – the same logo that appears on conventional meat products.
According to a formal agreement dating from March 2019, cell-cultured meat falls under a joint regulatory framework wherein the FDA oversees cell collection, cell banks, and cell growth and differentiation. During the cell harvest stage, oversight falls under the responsibility of the USDA-FSIS, for the post-harvest processing and labelling of food products.
Initial soft launch at premium restaurants
UPSIDE’s cultivated chicken will be first sold in San Francisco’s Bar Crenn, prepared by Michelin star chef Dominique Crenn and made using its small-scale cultivators. However, the company said it had large-scale cultivators that can produce up to 50,000 pounds (around 23 tonnes) of cultivated meat each year and had a projected expansion capacity of up to 400,000 pounds (181 tonnes).
Pictured: Cell-cultured chicken sandwich by UPSIDE Foods
It noted the need to scale its production facilities and supply chains to meet demand because many of the nutrients the chicken cells need to grow have never been required in industrial quantities before.
GOOD Meat said production of its first batch has already started and will be sold to restaurateur and chef José Andrés, who operates more than 30 restaurants in the US. Andrés’ restaurant in Washington DC will be the first to serve the cell-cultivated chicken in the US.
However, Eat Just is already commercialising cell-cultured chicken in Singapore: in December 2020, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) greenlighted the sale of cultivated chicken in the city state.
Josh Tetrick, co-founder and CEO of GOOD Meat and Eat Just, said the US approval was a major moment for the company. “We have been the only company selling cultivated meat anywhere in the world since we launched in Singapore in 2020, and now it's approved to sell to consumers in the world's largest economy. We appreciate the rigor and thoughtfulness that both the FDA and USDA have applied during this historic two-agency regulatory process,” he said.
Agricultural innovation and economic opportunity
Dan Glickman, GOOD Meat advisory board member; former US Secretary of Agriculture; and member of the US House of Representatives praised the “agricultural innovation and economic opportunity” afforded by the approval.
“Today’s approval demonstrates that the United States is a global leader in the promising alternative protein space while also continuing to support family farmers’ efforts to feed the world through conventional food and agriculture techniques,” he said.
Bruce Friedrich, GFI president, said that US consumers were now one step closer to enjoying the meat they love without compromise.
“Global demand for meat is projected to double by 2050. Breakthroughs like cultivated meat enable the world to diversify protein production while slashing emissions, increasing food security, reducing risks to public health, and freeing up lands and waters for restoration and recovery. Given the stakes, a transition toward cultivated meat and other alternative proteins is as essential as the global transition to renewable energy. And just like renewable energy, massive public investment is key to ensuring these new sustainable foods can scale, create future-focused jobs, and benefit everyone.”
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