OAN’s Brooke Mallory
6:02 PM – Wednesday, June 21, 2023
U.S. officials made the decision on Wednesday to allow chicken created from animal cells to be sold for the first time, allowing two California businesses to deliver “lab-grown” poultry to the nation’s restaurant tables and, eventually, grocery shelves.
The U.S. Agriculture Department approved Upside Foods and Good Meat, two firms that had been racing to be the first in the country to sell meat that did not come from slaughtered animals, and what is now known as “cell-cultivated” or “cultured” meat, as it emerges from the laboratory and arrives on dinner plates.
The move reportedly comes within a new age of meat production geared at “minimizing animal suffering” and substantially “decreasing the environmental implications” of catering to grazing, growing animal feed, and dealing with animal waste, according to those spearheading the lab-grown meat.
“Instead of all of that land and all of that water that’s used to feed all of these animals that are slaughtered, we can do it in a different way,” said Josh Tetrick, co-founder and chief executive of Eat Just, which operates Good Meat.
The firms were granted clearance for government inspections needed to sell meat and poultry in the United States. The court decision also came months after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined that both companies’ products are safe to ingest.
The lab-created meat will also be manufactured by Joinn Biologics, which collaborates with the Good Meat company.
Cells from a living animal, a fertilized egg, or a unique bank of stored cells are used to develop cultivated meat in steel tanks. For the company Upside, the meat is produced in large sheets that are subsequently molded into preferred forms, such as chicken cutlets. Good Meat, the first company to offer lab-produced meat in Singapore, essentially turns masses of chicken cells into cutlets, nuggets, shredded meat, and satays.
However, the new “meat” is reportedly not expected to hit American grocery stores anytime soon. Cultivated chicken is far more expensive than meat from whole, farmed birds and cannot currently be produced on the same scale as traditional meat, according to Ricardo San Martin, head of the University of California, Berkeley’s Alt:Meat Lab.
The firms are working to offer the new cuisine first at high-end restaurants. Upside has teamed up with a San Francisco restaurant called Bar Crenn, while Good Meat dishes will be served at a restaurant owned by chef Jose Andrés in Washington, D.C.
Representatives at both companies were adamant to point out that the “goods” are in fact meat, not meat alternatives like the Impossible Burger or Beyond Meat offerings, which are produced from plant proteins and other substances. Since they use animal cells, they claimed that their products had no relation to the vegetarian and vegan options that American shoppers have typically been used to.
More than 150 firms worldwide are currently concentrating on producing meat from animal cells, not just chicken but also pigs, lamb, fish, and beef, which some scientists allege has the greatest environmental effect.
Upside is headquartered in Berkeley, California, and has a 70,000-square-foot facility in nearby Emeryville.
Visitors and reporters visited a commercial kitchen on Tuesday this week, where chef Jess Weaver was sautéing a lab-grown chicken filet in a white wine butter sauce with tomatoes, capers, and green onions.
The end chicken breast product was much paler in color than the supermarket variety. Otherwise, it reportedly seemed to smell and taste like any other pan-fried poultry, according to those visiting the kitchen.
“The most common response we get is, ‘Oh, it tastes like chicken,’” said Amy Chen, Upside’s chief operating officer.
The Good Meat chicken product will be pre-cooked and ready to use in a variety of meals.
Chef Chen recognized that many people are still cautious and skeptical about consuming chicken developed from cells.
“We call it the ick factor,” she said.
A recent poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research echoed a similar opinion.
Half of all individuals in a United States poll stated that they were unlikely to try meat made from animal cells. When asked to give a reason for their aversion, the majority of those who indicated they would be unlikely to try it responded, saying “it just sounds weird” or a similar intuitive reaction.
Approximately half of those polled also believed that it would be unsafe to consume.
Chen then explained the process further, hoping that her description could change people’s minds.
She said that their food “specialists” choose cells from living animals that are “most likely to taste delicious” and multiply them rapidly and reliably, resulting in high-quality meat, according to Chen. A master cell bank derived from a commercially accessible chicken cell line is utilized to create the meat products. After the cell lines are chosen, they are mixed with a broth-like mixture that contains amino acids, fatty acids, carbohydrates, salt, vitamins, and other nutrients that cells require to develop. Cells proliferate rapidly within the tanks, which are also known as cultivators. Muscle and connective tissue cells grow together to create huge sheets of these cells.
The sheets of poultry cells are then taken from the tanks after about three weeks and are molded into cutlets, sausages, or other “delicacies.”
San Martin mentioned a fear of his being that the cultured meat might solely become a rich person’s alternative to traditional meat, and if that becomes the case then it will not accomplish anything positive for the environment by becoming a niche product which only a small percentage of people are purchasing.
“If some high-end or affluent people want to eat this instead of a chicken, it’s good,” he said. “Will that mean you will feed chicken to poor people? I honestly don’t see it.”
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