Cultivated chicken anyone?

Bite-Sized Breakthrough

The US Department of Agriculture has approved two companies, Upside Foods and Good Meat, to sell their lab-grown chicken products, Reuters reports, making them the first lab-grown meats to be greenlit for sale in the country.

More specifically, the USDA approval comes in the form of a grant of inspection. Strictly speaking, the grant means that the companies' meat-processing facilities are in compliance with the agency's standards and will be regularly inspected. This, in effect, allows their products to be sold at large.

"This approval will fundamentally change how meat makes it to our table," Upside Foods CEO Uma Valeti said in a statement. "It's a giant step forward towards a more sustainable future — one that preserves choice and life."

Blazing Trails

With this major regulatory hurdle cleared, the US is now only the second country in the world to approve the sale of lab-grown meat after Singapore.

Lab-grown, or "cultivated" meat, is touted as a more ethical alternative to traditional meat because no animals are killed or harmed to create it.

As the name implies, lab-grown meat is created in bioreactors using real animal cells. And depending on who you ask, it sort of tastes like the real thing, too.

Whether it's a healthy, or even healthier, alternative, however, remains to be seen, but clearly, the USDA thinks it's at least safe enough for us to eat.

Long Road Ahead

But promises of being a more "sustainable" alternative to livestock meat be damned, at least one study purports that current methods of cultivated meat production aren't any greener than obtaining meat from slaughtered livestock. The study concedes, though, that this could be vastly improved in the future.

Still, even if the process is made markedly more efficient over time, taking lab-grown meat mainstream won't be easy.

Industry leaders have admitted that no one has figured out how to scale up production while keeping costs reasonable. Getting skeptical consumers to eat it will prove harder still.

It will probably be a while before you see lab-grown meat in your local supermarket, if ever. But for now, both companies plan to publicly debut their products at a few select restaurants and locations.

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