Some restaurants in the United States may serve lab-grown meat as early as this year. The chief executive officer (CEO) of Upside Foods, Uma Valeti, is optimistic that cultivated meat could be on the menu within months.
So far, only Singapore has approved lab-grown meat for retail sale. But the United States is set to follow.
In November, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it had cleared a cultivated meat product -chicken breast grown by California-based Upside Foods- as safe for human consumption. The company hopes to bring its product to US restaurants and grocery stores in the next few years.
Lab-grown meat is a type of food that is produced using cells from animals, which are then cultured in a laboratory to create meat products.
The process involves collecting a sample of animal cells, such as muscle cells, and growing them in a healthy environment until they form muscle tissue that can be harvested and processed into meat products.
This type of meat is produced without the need for raising and slaughtering animals, making it a potential alternative to conventionally produced meat.
Upside Foods makes cell-cultured chicken by collecting cells from live chickens and using those cells to grow meat in stainless-steel tanks.
“So cultivated meat is meat. It’s not a meat alternative. It’s meat that’s grown from real animal cells. So what we do is we take really high-quality animal cells from, let’s say, a cow or a pig or a chicken or a lobster. And we look for cells that can continue to grow outside the animal in a very robust and healthy way,” Valeti told news agency Reuters.
The FDA “agrees that our product is safe for consumers to have, and we are waiting for it to come to market once USDA gives us a label and a grant of inspection to sell,” Valeti said.
But lab-grown meat companies must attract more funding to increase production so that they can offer their chicken breasts and beef steaks at a lower cost.
“So the challenge right now and getting it into retail or supermarkets is production capacity. So we’re going to start out with small production capacity, and we are going to start for the restaurants initially,” Valetti said. “But as we scale in the next 3 to 5 years, we want to be able to be in restaurants as well as retailers.”
For now, production is limited. Upside’s facility can produce around 400,000 pounds of lab-grown meat per year, which is almost nothing compared to the 106 billion pounds of conventional meat produced in the United States in 2021, according to the North American Meat Institute.
So far, the cultivated meat sector has raised nearly $2 billion in investments globally, according to data collected by the Good Food Institute (GFI).
The European Union, Israel and other countries are also working on regulatory frameworks for lab-grown meat but have yet to approve a product for human consumption.