U.S.-based Upside Foods has announced a major cellular agriculture breakthrough. It has produced an animal component-free (ACF) cell feed designed to fast track the cultivated meat industry to scalable production. Two products have been manufactured using the feed: chicken nuggets and chicken hot dogs. Roll out is anticipated across the company’s full product range.
Industry pioneer Upside Foods is calling its ACF feed a “breakthrough milestone” that will make cultivated meat scalable and cost-effective. It replaces traditionally-used mediums including fetal bovine serum (FBS) and animal proteins, which raise ethical questions and remain cost-prohibitive. Removing the need for such components has been the goal for Upside since its conception in 2015.
Creating animal-free growth serum
“Since day one, we knew that developing animal component-free cell feed would be crucial to fully realizing our vision of meat that’s better for the planet and its inhabitants,” says Dr. Uma Valeti, Founder and CEO of Upside Foods. “Cell feed is the biggest driver of cost and environmental footprint for the cultivated meat industry, and optimising it is key to maximising our positive impact. Our ultimate goal is to remove animals from our meat production process entirely.”
To qualify the practical capabilities of ACF, Upside has successfully produced selected chicken products. Portfolio-wide application is expected in due course and will impact new lines in the works. “Developing animal component-free cell feed is a breakthrough scientific feat,” said Dr. Kevin Kayser, SVP of Research at UPSIDE Foods. “This unlocks new opportunities for Upside Foods as we focus on scaling and commercialising cultivated meat. Our teams are excited about this milestone and are already working towards our goal to make all of our products with animal component-free cell feed.”
The ACF breakthrough came as a result of a crack team being specifically assembled. Big names from biotech and the pharmaceutical sector were drafted in and given just one mandate: making ACF a reality. This follows on from all FBS being removed from Upside’s processes.
Gearing up for regulatory approval
As it stands, Upside is still awaiting U.S. regulatory approval for the sale of cultivated meat products. The company had hoped to enter 2022 with the go-ahead but time is running out. Regardless of impending approval, UPSIDE has busied itself with preparing for a full-scale launch. The opening of its new ‘EPIC” production facility in California was another step closer to the end goal of “demystifying cultivated meat” for regular consumers. Capable of producing 400,000 pounds of cultivated products a year over the next few years, the plant also houses an innovation hub.
While waiting for the green light to sell, Upside has been a vocal industry advocate. Recently it responded to the USDA’s labeling plans with a statement about avoiding derogatory terms, including “lab-grown meat”. As one of the founding companies in the sector, it sees itself as a gatekeeper of the rhetoric surrounding cultivated meat and is committed to steering the conversation in a more positive and consumer-friendly direction.
Breakthroughs from around the globe
South Korea’s CellMeat has had a breakthrough of its own, announcing an FBS-free growth serum this week as well. CSF-A1 removes the need for ethically questionable components and offers potential for the cultivated meat industry in Korea to ramp up.
Dutch food tech Mosa Meat is also making moves with a differentiation medium that is entirely animal-free. Since cutting FBS from its production process, the company has slashed its growth medium costs 88-fold.
All images courtesy of Upside Foods.