According to a press release from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), cultivated meat is now safe for human consumption. The approval came after the health authorities conducted a pre-market consultation with a provider, UPSIDE foods, previously Memphis Meats, and discovered no new safety concerns.
UPSIDE Foods, situated in Berkeley, California, was created in 2015 with the goal of producing lab-grown chicken flesh utilising cell culture. Aside from UPSIDE Foods, a slew of other enterprises have utilised this strategy to supply market demand for animal meat without slaughtering them.
How can meat be cultivaated?
To create meat in the lab, cells are taken from animals without killing them and grown into cell lines that can be frozen for long-term storage. A tiny sample of cells from these cell lines can then be extracted and transferred to massive steel tanks known as bioreactors, which contain all of the required nutrients and conditions for cells to grow and increase in number.
When the cells reach a specific age and shape, they are harvested and used to produce meat products for human consumption. Unlike plant-based meats, which are generated from plant components and designed to look and feel like real meat, cultured meat is 100% animal tissue but without the need to entirely grow the animal or butcher it.
Startups companies in this space have built small production facilities to test their products and processes. These facilities also help them demonstrate to regulators like the FDA that their products and processes meet safety requirements.
What is needed for full approval?
According to the press release, the FDA has only certified the UPSIDE Foods product, and the authorization does not imply blanket permission for all cultivated meat. The FDA has encouraged other providers of these items to contact them early in the product development process and before obtaining public sale approvals.
The news release also stated that after receiving FDA approval, the maker of cultured meat will need to obtain approval from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which will inspect the manufacturing facility for food safety regulations. Furthermore, the product will require an inspection mark from the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), and the FDA is working with the other federal agencies to assure the required regulation and labelling of these items.
Despite this historic decision, technology is still years away from replacing animal meat on our plates. According to a Wired report, the cost of producing meat in this manner is too expensive, and even large-scale facilities would struggle to compete with the economics of conventional meat sources today.
Uma Valeti, CEO of UPSIDE Foods, told Wired that the cultured meat industry is still in its infancy and that it could take another 15 years before it achieves scalability and can reach people in most regions of the world.