Americans can expect to see cultivated chicken –– also called cultured or cell-based meat –– on grocery shelves nationwide in the near future. This week, Upside Foods became the first company to receive the ‘No Questions’ letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which gives the food tech company a “green light” for its cultivated chicken product. This letter follows years of rigorous evaluations conducted by the government organization.
“This is a watershed moment in the history of food,” Dr. Uma Valeti, CEO and Founder of Upside Foods, said. “We started Upside amid a world full of skeptics, and today, we’ve made history again as the first company to receive a ‘No Questions’ letter from the FDA for cultivated meat. This milestone marks a major step towards a new era in meat production, and I’m thrilled that U.S. consumers will soon have the chance to eat delicious meat that’s grown directly from animal cells.”
Since its founding in 2015, the food tech company has aimed to produce a sustainable chicken product without the need for animal agriculture. This process would greatly reduce the environmental strain and animal-borne disease risks of factory farms. Now, the FDA has established the cultivated chicken filet as safe to eat, paving the way for commercial sale.
Before commercial sale, however, Upside Foods will need to work with the USDA to secure the remaining approvals. While these products are not considered vegan or plant-based, Upside Foods aims to create a conventional meat alternative that appeals to the American public that also minimizes slaughter and greenhouse emissions. The company believes this product can curb American chicken consumption, which is estimated at 100 pounds per person per year.
“Since our earliest days, our top priority has been to ensure the safety and quality of our products,” Eric Schulze, Ph.D., VP of Regulatory and Public Policy at Upside Foods, said. “FDA sets the standard for global acceptance of new food innovations, and we are incredibly grateful for the agency’s rigorous and thoughtful process to ensure the safety of our food supply. We’re also extremely proud to have played a leading role in helping to champion the framework for how cultivated meat, poultry, and seafood are regulated in the U.S.”
Upside Foods Anticipates Commercial Sale of Cultivated Chicken
Following its $400 million Series C funding round, Upside Foods exceeded a valuation of $1 billion. Even though the company still requires full approval from the USDA, Upside is working on perfecting its production process within the US. Last November, the company unveiled its biggest manufacturing center, aptly called EPIC. The custom-made cultivators can produce 50,000 pounds of cultivated meat per year, but the food tech company projects the facility will eventually be capable of 400,000 per year.
In recent years, the company has launched the Alliance of Meat, Poultry, and Seafood Innovation –– the world’s first trade coalition for cultivated meat. The organization intends to help facilitate the growing cell-based meat industry as the companies approach full regulatory approval.
Cultivated Chicken and Fine Dining
Last August, Upside Foods also invited acclaimed chef Dominique Crenn to join its culinary development team. The chef, known for San Fransico fine dining establishment Atelier Crenn, will help the company test its chicken product for food service use. Crenn revealed that she will add the cultivated chicken to her famously meatless menu following regulatory approval.
“When I tasted UPSIDE Chicken for the first time, I thought, this is it. This is the future of food. The look, smell, and sear — UPSIDE Chicken is just delicious,” Crenn said at the time. “People are finally waking up to the downsides of conventional meat production, which led me to remove meat from my menus several years ago.”
The Growing Cultivated Meat Industry
Upside Food might be the first food tech company to receive the “Green Light” within the United States, but Eat Just’s GOOD Meat brand launched its cultivated chicken in Singapore in early 2021. Eat Just is working closely with ABEC Inc to increase its production capabilities in both Asia and the United States. This May, the company announced that it would begin building a production facility with 10 250,000-liter bioreactors that will become operational by 2024.
The cultivated meat market has caught the attention of environmentally-motivated investors that include celebrities like Ashton Kutcher and Leonardo DiCaprio. The Good Food Institute found that cultivated beef production would reduce global warming risks by 92 percent when compared to conventional beef farming.
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