USDA Gives Go-Ahead For 2 Companies To Sell Lab-Grown Chicken

Since the first stem-cell-crafted burger was served experimentally just about a decade ago, lab-grown meat has been hailed as the future of food. Now, the future seems to finally be upon us. This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officially approved the sale of lab-grown chicken produced by two California-based companies, Upside Foods and Good Meat. Upside Foods' past claims to fame include creating the first lab-grown beef meatball as well as the first chicken and duck. Good Meat, on the other hand, has made a name for itself as the maker of JUST Egg products, which are made from plants.

However, the chicken produced by these companies is not exactly plant-based. Although the production process does not require the killing of animals, creating the poultry involves using real animal cells, which are cultivated and grown in massive bioreactors. So the meat just comes from a steel vat rather than a chicken coop.

Both companies passed a rigorous inspection process assessing food safety, receiving a green light to start producing and selling their products on a larger scale to consumers. Upside Foods founder and CEO Dr. Uma Valeti, a former cardiologist who began experimenting with stem cell foods, celebrated the news by calling it "the biggest moment in the history of food and meat in the last hundred years" (per KTVU).

What's so great about lab-cultivated meat?

Proponents of lab-grown meat praise the development not only for its more ethical approach but also for its environmental benefits. According to a 2021 study, typical animal-based products are responsible for 57% of the global food industry's greenhouse gas emissions. While the production of lab-grown meat uses a significant amount of energy, renewable sources and a reduction in land and water use still make it a more sustainable option. Additionally, it could remove the risk of contaminants like E. coli and salmonella (per CNN).

As for how the taste holds up? Dr. Valeti maintains that his company's meat is tender and juicy, while reporters for CNET and AgFunder Network, who have tried both Upside Foods' and Good Meats' products, have said that they really taste like chicken.

If you're wondering when you'll be able to try the lab-grown chicken yourself, well, you may be able to eat it at a restaurant sooner than you can buy it at the grocery store. Although Good Meats' product has previously been approved for sale in Singapore, it is currently only available at select restaurants. In the United States, the company has partnered with chef and restaurateur José Andrés to introduce it at his Washington D.C. eatery, China Chilcano. Meanwhile, Upside Foods plans to work with San Francisco restaurant Bar Crenn to start serving the chicken as soon as in a few weeks. Neither company has confirmed a date for general sale to consumers, but it could take a few years.