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FDA allows two food tech companies to sell laboratory-grown chicken in US 

Two United States companies have announced that the FDA and the Department of Agriculture have approved their plan to produce and sell lab-grown or cell-cultivated chicken in the US.

HQ Team

June 22, 2023: Two United States companies have announced that the FDA and the Department of Agriculture have approved their plan to produce and sell lab-grown or cell-cultivated chicken in the US.

The two companies, Upside Foods, and Good Meat, in separate statements, stated that chicken meat, which is made directly from animal cells, could now be sold to American consumers.

With farm-grown conventional meat, the Food and Drug Administration oversees the safety of new ingredients used in meat and poultry products and regulates live animals to be used as food up until they are presented for slaughter. 

At the point of slaughter, the US Department of Agriculture takes over jurisdiction to oversee slaughter, meat processing, packaging, and labeling.

For cultivated meat, the FDA oversees the sourcing, selection, and the growth of the cells and all components and inputs used in the production process. The USDA takes over when the cells are removed from the sealed cultivators or the process called ‘harvesting.’

‘No questions’ letter

Earlier this month Good Meat received FDA’s Label Approval and the final step in the pre-regulatory process demonstration at the plant in Alameda, California, and its contract manufacturing partner, Joinn Biologics in Richmond, California, to receive grants of inspection from the USDA.

In March, the FDA  issued Good Meat a “no questions” letter indicating that the regulator had accepted the company’s conclusion that its chicken, which is made directly from cells instead of raised and slaughtered animals and is safe to eat.

“This announcement that we’re now able to produce and sell cultivated meat in the United States is a major moment for our company, the industry, and the food system,” said Josh Tetrick, co-founder, and CEO of Good Meat.

“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 rigour and thoughtfulness that both the FDA and USDA have applied during this historic two-agency regulatory process.”

Good Meat won multiple regulatory approvals for its chicken in Singapore in 2020 and 2021, and in January 2023 received a key clearance that paves the way for greater scalability, lower manufacturing costs, and a more sustainable product, according to the company statement.

“By undergoing a comprehensive facility review process and meeting the highest regulatory standards, cultivated meat will provide consumers with a safe and trusted source of protein,” said Bruce Friedrich, president, The Good Food Institute.

Food security

 “As we navigate a future with increasing global demand for meat, it is crucial that governments worldwide prioritize cultivated meat as a solution that satisfies consumer preferences, supports climate goals, and ensures food security for generations to come.”

Good Meat is a division of the food technology company, Eat Just.

In November 2022, Upside Foods received the “no questions” letter from the FDA. “After rigorous evaluation of our products and processes, the FDA accepted our safety conclusion,” according to a company statement.

Receiving a Grant of Inspection in June from USDA means that we’ve met the applicable federal requirements and standards to operate as a meat establishment and are allowed to process, package, and sell our cultivated chicken in the United States under the inspection of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service,” according to the statement.

While growing meat in laboratories, instead of raising and slaughtering billions of animals to produce meat, food technology companies grow meat from real animal cells. They take a sample of cells, place them in a vessel called a cultivator, and feed them the right blend of nutrients to multiply and grow. After two to three weeks, the meat is harvested and formulated.

San Francisco facility

Upside’s production facility is situated near San Francisco. Cultivators at the plant can produce up to 50,000 pounds of cultivated meat across the company’s portfolio of products every year, with a projected expansion capacity of up to 400,000 pounds.

In 2022, Americans consumed about 75 billion pounds of red meat and poultry.

In a survey conducted before the Department of Agriculture approved the sale of cell-based meat, few adults said they are very likely to try this meat when made available.

Fifty percent said they are not very or not at all interested in eating cell-based meat. Only 18% say they are extremely or very likely to try it, while 30% are somewhat likely, according to the survey by the Associated Press and NORC, University of Chicago.

For most who would not be willing to try this type of food, its oddness is a determining factor. Nearly half have fears about the safety of meat created in a laboratory.  Among those who are not very or not at all likely to try cell-based meat, most agree the concept “just sounds weird.” And nearly half are concerned about the safety of such food.

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