- Cultivated meat is officially able to enter the U.S. market, with the USDA issuing grants of inspection to Upside Foods and Eat Just today. This is the final step in the approval process.
- Both companies, based in California, will debut their cell-cultivated chicken products at restaurants run by famed chefs. Dominique Crenn will serve Upside Foods’ chicken at Bar Crenn in San Francisco, and José Andrés serving Eat Just’s Good Meat chicken at one of his restaurants in Washington, D.C.
- These are the first two cultivated meat companies to go through the U.S. government’s process to obtain full approval, which included approvals from both the FDA and USDA. Before today, Eat Just was the only company in the world that could sell cultivated meat, having received approval in Singapore in 2020.
This is the announcement that many in the food tech space have been waiting for.
Since Mark Post created the first hamburger using cultivated cells in 2013, meat that doesn’t require the slaughter of an animal has become a goal for many.
And while cultivated meat has been on the market in Singapore since 2020, this is the first approval for it in a major market. USDA’s approval is opening a huge door for a new way of producing meat. It shows that there is an existing — and proven — pathway for cultivated meat to go from experiments in the lab to consumers in one of the world’s most influential markets.
"Everything has changed,” Upside Foods COO Amy Chen said in an interview Wednesday. “Everything about the way food makes it to the table and how meat makes it to the table is about to be different. I'm really, really excited just for what this represents for the future of food."
Eat Just CEO Josh Tetrick said in an interview that ever since his company received approval to sell cultivated meat in Singapore, he’s asked two questions repeatedly: Does it actually taste like chicken, and when will it be available in the United States?
“There's just no getting around the fact that the United States is not only the world's largest economy, but is a statement center across culture globally,” he said. The approval “further legitimizes cultivated meat as an industry, as a technology that has now been approved for production and sale right here, in my home. It's an awesome moment. It's a major milestone for the industry.”
Upside Foods was the first to get tacit approval for its chicken product from the FDA. The company received a no questions letter — essentially deeming that their chicken is as safe to eat as that from a slaughtered bird — last November.
Eat Just received its no questions letter for its Good Meat chicken in March.
After receiving the letters, the approval process moved to USDA, which has jurisdiction over product labeling, as well as clearing the facility where the meat is made for safety.
USDA gave its labeling approval to both companies earlier this month, saying that the products can be called “cell-cultivated chicken.”
The cultivated meat grants of inspection — which is essentially just like the approval USDA provides for any traditional meat facility — came Wednesday morning. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service issued grants of inspection for Upside Foods’ EPIC facility in Emeryville, California, and for two Eat Just production facilities: its demonstration plant in Alameda, California and its co-manufacturer JOINN Biologics in Richmond, California.
“FSIS thoroughly reviews every application for a grant of inspection,” an emailed statement from the agency said. “Applications are approved following a rigorous process, which includes assessing a firm’s food safety system. Based on this review, FSIS has issued the first three grants of inspection to establishments producing FSIS-regulated products derived from animal cells.”
As USDA regulated meat production sites, government inspectors will be at the Upside and Eat Just facilities whenever they “harvest” their cultivated meat — remove it from the bioreactors where the cells are grown.
The grants of inspection herald a new chapter in meat production. Even so, cultivated meat will not be widely available to consumers immediately. At first, the products will be sold in select restaurants.
After receiving its grant of inspection, Upside Foods launched a contest for consumers to have a chance to be among the first to try their cultivated chicken at Bar Crenn in San Francisco— one of the restaurants run by Michelin-starred chef Dominique Crenn. Chen said cultivated chicken will go on the menu this summer.
The first chicken Upside will be served is a whole cut product that is 99% chicken cells. Chen said this is their first product because it is remarkably like the meat consumers are used to, with the fibers, texture and taste they expect. She said it will “set the high water mark” for what cultivated meat is.
Good Meat will be on the menu at one of Andrés’s restaurants in Washington, D.C. by the end of July, Tetrick said.
Meanwhile, both Upside Foods and Eat Just will work toward expanding their cultivated meat products to more consumers. Both companies are working toward commercial-scale facilities to increase the amount of cultivated meat they can make.
Upside Foods has also announced its second product will be cultivated ground chicken. That product, which is not included in the most recent approval, can be made more quickly and inexpensively.
These approvals are likely just the first of many in the United States. A wide variety of cultivated meat companies — including Believer Meats and SuperMeat, as well as Wildtype and BlueNalu for seafood — have also been working with federal regulators toward approval for their products for years. Now there is a path for them to follow.