The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday cleared meat grown in a laboratory for human consumption, marking the first time the agency has done so.
The decision means that Berkeley, California-headquartered UPSIDE Foods, formerly known as Memphis Meats, will be able to bring its “cultivated chicken” products to the market once it has been inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The company grows meat, poultry, and seafood by harvesting the cells from live animals and using them to grow the meat inside a cultivator. The cells are constantly nourished with an “optimized” feed that consists of “common compounds found in animal feed and human food, including amino acids, fatty acids, sugars, trace elements, salts, and vitamins.”
The cells are then harvested, inspected, and packaged to be served. UPSIDE Foods says their meat can be molded into any shape, and that it can look identical to your typical conventional-raised poultry.
No Need to Slaughter Billions of Animals
Following a “rigorous evaluation,” the FDA issued the company a “no questions” letter for its cultivated meat, poultry, or seafood, signaling that the agency has accepted UPSIDE’s conclusion that its cultivated chicken is safe to eat.
“We evaluated the information UPSIDE Foods submitted to the agency and have no further questions at this time about the firm’s safety conclusion,” the FDA said. “The FDA’s pre-market consultation with the firm included an evaluation of the firm’s production process and the cultured cell material made by the production process, including the establishment of cell lines and cell banks, manufacturing controls, and all components and inputs.”
While the agency found Upside Foods’ chicken safe to eat, the product is not yet approved to be sold.
“Instead, it means that after our careful evaluation of the data and information shared by the firm, we have no further questions at this time about the firm’s safety conclusion,” the FDA said.
UPSIDE Foods noted that the products they cultivate are not vegan or vegetarian, but are instead “delicious meat, made without the need to raise and slaughter billions of animals.”
Grown From Animal Cells
Additionally, the firm projects that scaled-up cultivated meat production will result in decreased water and land usage compared to conventionally-produced meat, and could potentially help reduce the risk of harmful bacterial contamination, owing to the company’s high testing, safety, and quality control.
CEO and founder, Dr. Uma Valeti, called the FDA’s decision a “watershed moment in the history of food.”
“We started UPSIDE amid a world full of skeptics, and today, we’ve made history again as the first company to receive a ‘No Questions’ letter from the FDA for cultivated meat,” Valeti said in a statement on Nov. 16. “This milestone marks a major step towards a new era in meat production, and I’m thrilled that U.S. consumers will soon have the chance to eat delicious meat that’s grown directly from animal cells.”
Under a 2019 agreement, both USDA and FDA together regulate cell-cultured meat. As the “cultivated chicken” products head closer to entering the market, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service will oversee the processing and labeling.
The FDA on Wednesday also noted that it is ready to work with additional firms developing cultured animal cell food to ensure the food is safe to consume.
UPSIDE Foods’s green light from the FDA comes after cultivated chicken was served to attendees at this year’s COP27 climate conference in Egypt.
Reuters contributed to this report.