The FDA has given approval to a new startup known as Upside Foods. The company has managed to achieve the goal of creating slaughter-free meat with chicken grown in a lab from animal cells. Lab-grown meat isn't a new concept, but getting support for this new type of food has been slow. Now with FDA approval finally being given, the industry has new hopes for addressing ethical and sustainability issues that come with current slaughterhouse usage.
Potentially Coming To Store Shelves
Initial approval from the FDA is a huge leap toward lab-grown meat hitting store shelves, but the current state of market access is still being finalized. The production labs and machines used to cultivate the meat, and the meat itself, have yet to be fully inspected by the USDA, which is the final hurdle before the meat can be sold in the U.S. Even once approved, it will only be for the chicken created by Upside Foods. Other startups that work with lab-grown beef or seafood will require their own, separate approvals.
Despite this, the industry is buzzing as the possibility of FDA approval and full market access now seems more achievable than ever before. Chefs across the country are excited to try out the new chicken, as cultured meat can provide consistent muscle density and fat content, two key parts in deciding which cut of meat to use for certain dishes. With only one startup currently on track to hit the public market, the supply is likely to be slim and restricted to certain restaurants and stores.
The Difference Between Lab-Grown and Plant-Based
Plant-based meat substitutes have been around for decades but could never replicate the same taste and texture as meat. Vegan burger patties are often made of a mix of beans and other vegetables to match the consistency of beef while providing flavor and nutrition. The feedback on these alternatives isn't always the greatest, but the new lab-grown meat hopes to be the new answer to cruelty-free meat that satisfies the masses.
Upside Foods has created lab-grown meat by using cells from the target animal — in this case, a chicken — and uses it to create samples that are fed nutrients until the cells begin to divide and grow. The meat can then be harvested for use once the cells have grown enough. Due to the technology, research and time needed to create lab-grown meat, the cost could be as high as $17 per pound when bought at wholesale prices. To make the entry into the market more appealing to consumers, the first offered products will likely be a mix of plant-based and lab-grown meats. The bright side is that as more companies get the green light for lab-grown meat, the interest in improving the process will likely increase to make it more economical.
Now It’s Up to the USDA
As of the time of writing, the USDA has yet to provide any sort of timeline regarding when it expects to complete inspections of Upside Foods and its facilities. The lab-grown chicken in question will be subject to the same guidelines as any other poultry producer, but the lab setting where the meat is created should make passing easy. The USDA may be taking its time on this one, as it'll likely be the organization to set a precedent for all future meat cultivation companies.
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