The future of meat has arrived. In a landmark first, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved the sale of cell–cultured chicken, paving the way for growers and producers to enter the market.
Two startups, Good Meat, and Upside Foods, have been the first to receive USDA approval, allowing them to label their products as “cell–cultivated chicken.” Until now, only Singapore has approved the sale of this innovative meat solution.
The process of creating cultured meat begins with stem cells extracted from the fat or muscle of an animal. These cells are then put into a culture medium that feeds the cells and allows them to grow. After the medium is placed into a bioreactor, an end product is created that looks and tastes like traditional meat.
Proponents of this product say it is healthier for consumers and more sustainable for the environment than traditional meat options. These advantages have already sparked tremendous interest from investors, with each of the first two companies receiving millions in funding.
The fact that the USDA is now allowing for the sale of this product is a major breakthrough for the industry. This news is incredibly exciting for not only the technology but also potential customers. As it is currently available, the product is being offered at restaurants in both San Francisco and Washington D.C.
Chef Jose Andres has placed the first order for Good Meat’s cultivated chicken while Chef Dominique Crenn will serve it in limited quantities at her restaurant in San Francisco.
Of course, it is not yet clear whether these companies will be able to achieve widespread and consistent success. Due to the cost of media and bioreactor inputs, the finished product is still quite expensive for consumers.
Additionally, it remains to be seen how much the American public will embrace this new type of food. The companies will need to do some serious marketing to convince consumers that they would prefer lab–grown meat over traditional options.
However, the potential is there. If the industry can overcome these obstacles, McKinsey predicts that by 2030, lab–grown meat could provide as much as half of 1% of the world’s meat supply, representing billions of pounds and $25 billion in sales.
Regardless, the news from the USDA is sure to energize the industry and capture public attention. It looks like cultured meat is here to stay.