Brian L. Frank for NPR/Brian L. Frank for NPR
Throughout human history, eating meat has meant slaughtering animals. But the scientists behind cultured meat say it’s no longer necessary. They produce meat by growing cells extracted from an animal’s body. And, today, the US Department of Agriculture has given its first approvals to sell the meat produced in this way.
GOOD Meat, a division of Eat Just, Inc., announced it has received USDA approval for its first poultry product, cultured chicken, grown directly from animal cells, for sale in the U.S.
“This announcement that we are now able to produce and sell US-grown meat is an important moment for our company, industry and food system,” said Josh Tetrick, co-founder and CEO of GOOD Meat and Eat Just .
GOOD Meat already sells its cultured chicken in Singapore, which in 2020 became the first country to allow the commercial sale of cultured meat.
The USDA has also authorized the sale of UPSIDE Food’s grown chicken. « This represents a historic step, » a waiter, CEO of UPSIDE Foods, based in Berkeley, Calif., told NPR via text message. The company also produces chicken grown directly from animal cells.
UPSIDE will debut a textured chicken product, which tastes very similar to chicken breast and is made up of more than 99 percent chicken cells. I tasted it on a tour of the company’s 70,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Emeryville, California, where its beef is grown in large stainless steel tanks reminiscent of a brewery.
I was served a piece of their chicken, stir-fried with a white wine butter sauce. My first reaction: « It’s delicious. » (Isn’t it all in a wine-and-butter sauce?) And the texture was chewy, closely replicating the texture of chicken breast (minus bones and hard bits or gristle.) « It tastes like chicken, » I said, to which Valeti quickly replied: « AND AND chicken! »
Initially, the UPSIDE Food plant can produce approximately 50,000 pounds of meat annually, with plans to expand beyond chicken once this product is launched.
As NPR reported last fall, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given the green light to UPSIDE, reporting that its farmed chicken is safe to eat. Last week, the US Department of Agriculture approved UPSIDE’s label and today (Wednesday) the USDA issued an inspection grant, which means the company has authorized the last regulatory hurdle and sales can begin.
« Today’s historic announcement – two US companies gaining regulatory approval to bring cultured meat to US consumers – marks a pivotal moment for food and agriculture, » he says Bruce Friedrichpresident of the Good Food Institute, a nonprofit that tracks investment trends in alternative proteins.
« Consumers are now one giant leap towards enjoying the meat they love without compromise, » says Friedrich, emphasizing that the goal is to give people the taste of meat without slaughtering animals and without the environmental footprint associated with traditional meat production. animal feed. More than 150 cultured meat and seafood companies have raised more than $2.8 billion in investment.
UPSIDE will debut a textured chicken product, which tastes very similar to chicken breast and is made up of more than 99 percent chicken cells. I tasted it during a tour of the company’s 70,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Emeryville, California, where its beef is grown in large stainless steel tanks reminiscent of a brewery. Initially, the facility can produce approximately 50,000 pounds of meat annually, with plans to expand beyond chicken once this product is launched.
« Everything we know about how meat can be made is going to change, » says Valeti, who is a cardiologist, working out. « This is real, » he told us. But don’t expect to see cultured meat in grocery stores just yet. UPSIDE’s strategy is to create awareness of cultured meat, promoting it as a way to build a more humane and sustainable food system. And the company knows that its future also depends on the taste of the sale, which explains the partnership with a Michelin-starred chef.
Brian L. Frank for NPR
Dominique Crenn, owner of three-Michelin-star restaurant Atelier Crenn, will serve UPSIDE’s farmed chicken at her restaurant Bar Crenn in San Francisco. The chicken I sampled on a visit to UPSIDE was served pan fried in a delicious white wine butter sauce. And GOOD Meat has partnered with celebrities chef Jose Andres, who has joined the board of directors of GOOD Meat. Andres intends to serve GOOD Meat’s grown chicken at one of his restaurants.
“We have to innovate, adapt our food to a planet in crisis,” Andres said when partnering with GOOD Meat. The company markets its cultured meat as « real » meat produced « without cutting down a forest or taking a life ».
Proponents say cultured meat is more sustainable and can be produced without antibiotics and without producing methane emissions related to animal agriculture, especially beef cattle. AND scientists warn that the typical way meat is made now, in concentrate animal feeding operationsit is a risk factor for the onset of diseases.
From a third of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions they come from food production and animal agriculture is responsible for much of it. Climate scientists have warned that to slow global warming, agriculture must change. Some scientists say it’s unclear whether cultured meat can reduce greenhouse gas emissions: It will depend, in part, on the source of electricity used to power its facilities.
While many of the details are proprietary, the basic formula for producing cultured meat is clear. They started by extracting the cells from the animals using a needle biopsy. Food scientists no longer need to go back to the animal to extract cells every time, as there are many cells stored in a cell bank. Companies can select the cells they want to grow. Then, inside the stainless steel tanks, the cells are fed a blend of the same nutrients an animal would eat—a combination of fats, sugars, amino acids and vitamins—that allows the cells to proliferate and grow into flesh.