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‘As long as it tastes good’: People react to US approval to sell chicken cultivated by cells

Two California companies have received approval to sell cell-cultivated chicken

Chelsea Ritschel
New York
Wednesday 21 June 2023 17:40 BST
Related: World’s largest lab-grown steak printed by Israeli firm

Regulators in the United States have approved the sale of chicken made from cultivated cells, marking a huge step for the nation’s first “lab-grown” meat.

The move comes after Good Meat, a developer of chicken grown from animal cells, announced in March 2023 that it had received a “no-questions” letter from the Food and Drug Administration, which indicated the FDA was satisfied that the product was safe to sell, according to CNN.

Upside Foods, another company that makes chicken using cultured cells, received a similar letter from the FDA in November, the outlet reported. At the time, Dr Uma Valeti, the founder and CEO of Upside Foods, called the approval a “watershed moment,” noting it’s “never happened before in the history of humanity”.

However, before the lab-grown meat could be made available to US consumers, it required approval from the US Department of Agriculture.

With Tuesday’s approval by the Agriculture Department of federal inspections required to sell meat and poultry in the US, the two California companies will be able to make the lab-grown chicken available to restaurants and, later, to supermarkets.

The goal of lab-grown meat is both to eliminate harm to animals and to reduce the enivornmental impacts of traditional animal agriculture.

“Instead of all of that land and all of that water that’s used to feed all of these animals that are slaughtered, we can do it in a different way,” said Josh Tetrick, co-founder and chief executive of Eat Just, which operates Good Meat.

The cultivated meat is made using cells from a living animal and grown in steel tanks. Upside’s lab-grown meat, which is made using cells from live animals that have been chosen as being the most likely to taste good and reproduce quickly, first comes out in large sheets, before it is then formed into recognisable chicken shapes. Good Meat turns the chicken cells, which are created from a master cell bank formed from a commercially available chicken cell line, into cutlets, nuggets, shredded meat and satays. Good Meat’s chicken is already available in Singapore, the first country to allow the sale of lab-grown meat.

As for when individuals living in the US can expect to see the meat in grocery stores, it will likely be some time, as the lab-grown chicken is more expensive than traditional meat, and cannot yet be produced on the same scale, according to Ricardo San Martin, director of the Alt:Meat Lab at University of California Berkeley.

According to Upside, its Emeryville facility can produce up to 50,000 pounds of cultivated meat products a year, though the goal is to expand to 400,000 pounds per year, which is significantly less than the 50 billion pounds of chicken produced by the US each year.

However, those eager to try the cell-cultivated meat will be able to do so in certain restaurants, with Upside partnering with San Francisco restuarant Bar Crenn to make the meat available to consumers, while dishes made with Good Meat will be served at Chef Jose Andrés’ restaurant in Washington, DC.

According to Amy Chen, Upside’s chief operating officer, the most common response the company has gotten from people who have tried the meat is that it “tastes like chicken”.

But not everyone is on board with trying lab-grown meat just yet, with Chen noting that the company is aware of the “ick factor” its product is often met with.

A recent poll conducted by the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research also found hesitancy among Americans to try meat made in a lab, with half of US adults revealing that they are unlikely to try meat grown using animal cells.

According to the poll, the majority of respondents said their reluctance stemmed from a belief that the lab-grown meat “just sounds weird,” while half said they worried the cell-cultivated meat wouldn’t be safe.

On social media, the reaction to the news that lab-cultivated chicken will soon be available in the US has been divided, with some open to trying the meat, while others have expressed their reluctance to try the product.

“If it tastes like chicken and cooks like chicken, I’m for it,” one person tweeted, while another described the approval as “pretty cool”.

However, others didn’t hold back with negative opinions about the lab-grown chicken, with one tweet reading: “The thought disgusts me. I’ll give up meat completely first.”

“No to the Frankenstein meat,” someone else wrote.

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