The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday declared a lab-grown meat product developed by a California start-up to be safe for human consumption, paving the way for products derived from real animal cells – but that don’t require an animal to be slaughtered – to someday be available in U.S. grocery stores and restaurants.
Dozens of major food companies are jostling to debut cultivated meat to the American public. As of now, Singapore is the only country in which these products are legally sold to consumers. The FDA’s announcement that cultivated chicken from Emeryville-based Upside Foods is safe to eat is likely to open the floodgates in the United States in the coming months.
Upside Foods, formerly known as Memphis Meats, is harvesting cells from viable animal tissues and growing edible flesh under controlled conditions in bioreactors, flesh the firm says will be identical to that raised conventionally. Alternatives to traditional animal agriculture are seen as a way to mitigate climate change, and have been a major topic of discussion this week at the United Nations climate change conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.
Whether consumers will embrace this form of meat remains a question. Despite the money and hopes invested in realistic simulated-meat products such as Beyond and Impossible, which are made with vegetable protein, the market for these alt-meat products has cooled. High prices, too, will be a challenge to widespread adoption, experts say.
Still, boosters of cultivated meat say it has huge potential.
“We will see this as the day the food system really started changing,” said Costa Yiannoulis, managing partner at Synthesis Capital, the world’s largest food technology fund. “The U.S. is the first meaningful market that has approved this – this is seismic and groundbreaking.”
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