- Cell-based meat company Upside Foods has partnered with Michelin-starred chef Dominique Crenn, who will debut the company's cell-based chicken in her Atelier Crenn restaurant in San Francisco once the company receives regulatory approval. Crenn will also be providing culinary counsel and recipe development assistance to Upside Foods.
- Upside Foods, previously known as Memphis Meats, says this is its first partnership of this kind. The company plans to partner with other U.S. chefs and restaurants as its products get closer to being approved for sale. This will be followed by commercial rollouts to grocery stores and other markets worldwide.
- Upside Foods has been at the forefront of U.S. cultured meat development, with its pilot plant in the San Francisco Bay area — funded through a $186 million investment round that closed last year — nearing completion. The company said it's been working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration as they develop regulations and an approval process for cell-based meat.
Even though there is still work to be done in building pilot plants, getting a regulatory framework in place and being able to demonstrate that a large supply of cell-based meat can consistently be produced, Upside Foods is getting closer to the end consumer.
The company changed its name in May to be more consumer focused. This, combined with a high-profile partnership announcement, gives ordinary people — who are not familiar with the players, funds and techniques in the R&D race to create meat from cells — something to talk and think about, as the technology gets closer to becoming a reality that the masses can eat.
Upside Foods has chosen one of the best-known names in upscale French cuisine in the United States as its culinary and launch partner. Crenn was the first female chef in the U.S. to get three Michelin stars, and Atelier Crenn is consistently ranked as one of the best restaurants in the United States. The mission of Crenn's restaurants also makes her a good partner for Upside Foods. Focusing on sustainability, her restaurants have not served meat since 2019. Studies have shown that the sustainability benefits for cell-based meat could be substantial when compared with traditional animal agriculture.
In a release about the partnership, Crenn said that when she first tasted Upside Chicken, she felt she was tasting the future of food.
"People are finally waking up to the downsides of conventional meat production, which led me to remove meat from my menus several years ago," she said. "Chefs need to lead the way in making more conscious product choices. I am excited to be collaborating with Upside Foods and am looking forward to bringing meat back to Atelier Crenn that is delicious and better for the world."
Not only does this partnership quickly elevate cell-based meat to the heights of fine cuisine, but it also shows that animal-free meat can be desirable and delicious. While there is no cell-based meat on the market in the U.S., companies working on creating it have already been surveying consumers to gauge their opinions of possible products. According to these studies, public opinion is tilting favorably toward cell-based meat.
In a survey of U.S. consumers done earlier this year by a management consulting firm on behalf of Eat Just — the only company in the world with current regulatory approval for cell-based meat — 72% said they would consider purchasing cell-based meat after seeing pictures of products and reading a description of how they were made. Nearly seven in 10 said they would be willing to substitute cell-based chicken for that which comes from animals.
Of course, the proof will be in how consumers behave once a regulatory framework is in place for cell-based meat and companies' products are approved for sale. Singapore is the only country that has approved any cell-based meat for sale — that being U.S.-based Eat Just's Good Meat chicken. The product has been available at a couple of restaurants at the island nation since December. But in the U.S., Crenn's backing is likely to help push consumer acceptance.
Clarification: A previous version of this story noted the company's recent investment of $161 million, as originally announced. The round closed at $186 million, per the company.