Lab-grown chicken is pecking at the door of grocery stores as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration greenlighted its first step to market approval. Upside Foods is on its way to being the first company to complete the regulatory process.
The California-based company grows real chicken meat in labs from cells — sparing chickens bleak caged lives and eventual slaughter. Instead, as Upside Foods puts it, “We take a small sample of healthy chicken cells. We place it in a nutrient-rich environment and allow it to grow into pure clean meat, ready to cook and enjoy.”
But the powers-that-be need convincing about this new technology, which can freak out vegans and meat eaters alike. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and the FDA knew which way the barnyard wind was blowing, so they worked together in 2019 to develop a formal regulatory process for emerging lab-grown meats. In this arrangement, the FDA regulates the cell culturing portion of the process, then the USDA-FSIS takes over to oversee the cell processing post-harvest and subsequent steps.
“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,” the FDA noted in a statement. “The voluntary pre-market consultation is not an approval process. 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.”
An important first step. With many more steps to follow. So don’t rush to the supermarket chicken aisle just yet. So far, the world’s only lab-grown meat approved by a regulatory body for commercial sales is a chicken product sold in Singapore. But with many cellular agriculture startups working on slaughter-free meat, we can expect more to tackle the regulatory process soon.
“This is a watershed moment in the history of food,” said Upside Foods CEO Dr. Uma Valeti, as reported by New Atlas. “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.”
Via New Atlas
Lead image via Upside Foods