- Chicken grown from cells in bioreactors produced by Upside Foods and Eat Just will be labeled “cell-cultivated chicken” when it is sold and served to the public. The USDA approved both companies’ labels earlier this month.
- These are the first labels that have been approved for the nascent segment by the USDA. The approval means the department, which is responsible for approving all labels of non-seafood cultivated meat products, feels these companies have demonstrated full compliance with pre-market labeling requirements, Upside Foods said.
- This approval brings Upside Foods and Eat Just a step closer to being able to sell and serve cultivated chicken in the United States. Upside Foods’ chicken received a green light from FDA last year, and Eat Just received FDA approval in March. Both companies still need to get grants of inspection from USDA at their manufacturing facilities to get complete approval in the U.S.
This approval starts to answer a question that has been swirling around the cultivated meat segment for years: What will it be called?
While this most recent approval from the USDA only applies to Upside Foods’ and Eat Just’s Good Meat cultivated chicken products that have already begun to move through the approval process, it’s the first time that USDA has officially entered any statement on what to call meat made of cells grown in bioreactors.
"The USDA's approval of our label marks a major step forward towards our goal of creating a more humane and sustainable food system,” Upside Foods CEO and founder Uma Valeti said in a statement about the decision.
Companies, individuals, politicians and interest groups have debated the proper way to label these products for years. In September 2021, USDA opened a docket to formally seek input on how they should be labeled. USDA wanted to know specifics: Which terms would work best, and which would be misleading?
In the months that the docket was open, 1,179 comments were received. Proposals included a wide range of labeling schemes. Some commenters affiliated with traditional agriculture said these products should not be permitted to have meat-affiliated terminology. Others associated with cultivated meat companies and advocates said the products should be able to have traditional meat names because they are actual meat, and argued for informative and transparent labeling to indicate the manner in which they were made.
The USDA’s decision on Upside Foods’ and Eat Just’s labels seems to be siding with the cultivated meat advocates, but this labeling decision is limited to these two specific products. According to USDA’s regulatory agenda for the second half of 2023, the department currently plans to introduce a proposed rule on labeling these products by the end of 2023.
Eat Just spokesperson Andrew Noyes said in an email that they have had “months of insightful and productive conversations with the USDA” about how to label their product. Noyes said they told the USDA that “cultivated” is the term that they — and most other companies globally — prefer.
Eat Just’s Good Meat chicken is currently sold in Singapore, where it is labeled “cultivated chicken.”
Both companies are currently working with the USDA to get full approval to sell their cultivated products. The department will need to issue grants of inspection — through which they verify that cultivated meat facilities and procedures meet their standards. There is no known timeline for this to occur.