"The world is experiencing a food revolution and the [FDA] is committed to supporting innovation in the food supply."
Meat and Greet
Behold, ethical omnivores: the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given a key go-ahead to what could be the first lab grown meat product bound for human consumption in the US.
The decision, a first for cultivated meat in the US, paves the way for Californian startup Upside Foods to start selling its lab-grown chicken product domestically — meaning that now, it only needs approval from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) before the ersatz chicken can hit restaurant menus.
"The world is experiencing a food revolution and the [FDA] is committed to supporting innovation in the food supply," FDA officials said in a statement. "The agency evaluated the information submitted by Upside Foods as part of a pre-market consultation for their food made from cultured chicken cells and has no further questions at this time about the firm’s safety conclusion."
Upside Foods' products were evaluated via a process in which manufacturers divulge the production process to the agency for review, along with a sample. If everything looks good after inspection, the FDA then sends back a "no further questions" letter to the company.
"We are thrilled at FDA's announcement," said Upside director of communications David Kay in an email to Reuters. "This historic step paves the way for our path to market."
Lab meat like Upside's aren't a plant-based imitation, unlike popular vegan alternatives such as Beyond Burgers. Instead, they're made from real animal cells grown in bioreactors, sparing the lives of actual livestock.
But while at a cellular level the meat may be the same, customers will definitely notice a difference in price. For now, cultivating meat remains an extremely expensive process, so pending USDA approval notwithstanding, it could still be a while before you see it hit the shelves of your local grocer.
To let eager, early customers try out the lab meat, Upside, which already announced its collaboration with Michelin star chef Dominique Crenn last year, will be debuting its chicken at specific upscale restaurants.
"We would want to bring this to people through chefs in the initial stage," CEO Uma Valeti told Wired. "Getting chefs excited about this is a really big deal for us. We want to work with the best partners who know how to cook well, and also give us feedback on what we could do better."
While the FDA's thumbs-up only applies to a specific product of Upside's, it's still a historic decision, signalling a way forward for an industry that's rapidly accruing investment.
Updated to clarify details regarding the FDA's evaluation of the product.
More on lab grown meat: Scientists Cook Comically Tiny Lab-Grown Hamburger
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