US-based UPSIDE Foods says it has completed construction on a production facility for manufacturing various types of cultivated meat and seafood. The Emeryville, California, facility, which it calls its Engineering, Production, and Innovation Center (EPIC), held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the recent milestone.
The facility is “the latest in a series of developments as UPSIDE prepares to bring its products to consumers,” the company said in a statement. In addition to producing meat analogues, the facility will also be open for tours for consumers, with the goal to “demystify cultivated meat” for the average citizen.
An EPIC journey for cultivated chicken
UPSIDE, formerly Memphis Meats, is widely considered to be one of the earliest movers in the cultivated meat space. Founded in 2015, it was part of an IndieBio cohort for that year and over time has gone on to raise $206 million.
Like other cultivated meat companies, UPSIDE uses the cells of animals to “grow” meat in bioreactors in a lab. Its main focus right now is on developing a chicken analogue using the cells of real chickens, which are harvested without actually slaughtering the animal.
Currently, UPSIDE is focused on the US market, where it says regulatory approval to sell its cultivated meat is pending. The company hopes to get that approval by the end of 2021.
“When we founded UPSIDE in 2015, it was the only cultivated meat company in a world full of skeptics,” Dr. Uma Valeti, CEO and Founder of UPSIDE Foods said in a statement. “When we talked about our dream of scaling up production, it was just that — a dream. Today, that dream becomes a reality. The journey from tiny cells to EPIC has been an incredible one, and we are just getting started.”
Over 400,000 pounds of meat per year
The Emeryville facility is a 53,000 square foot campus that is “designed to produce any species of meat, poultry, and seafood” in ground and whole-cut form, according to the company.
UPSIDE has custom-made, patented cultivators in the facility, and the company says these can produce “over 50,000 pounds of finished product” with a future capacity of over 400,000 pounds per year. UPSIDE will use the new plant to develop new products and processes to further scale up the business of making cultivated meat.
Worth noting is that even as sales of plant-based meat soar and more cultivated meat companies talk about regulatory approval and commercialization, Americans are eating substantially more animal-based chicken meat than they used to; today’s average US consumer eats roughly 100 pounds of meat from chickens per year versus 50 pounds in 1970, according to Vox. The US produces around 44 billion pounds of chicken per year.
In all likelihood, it will be decades — at least — before the cultivated meat industry can put a dent in those numbers. A lot will depend on how successfully production facilities like UPSIDE’s new location can perform in terms of their ability to produce at scale. That, too, is the subject of ongoing debate.
Betting on the future of food
UPSIDE joins numerous other companies that have this year announced production facilities for their cultivated meat operations. Eat Just’s GOOD Meat division — the only company in the world right now with regulatory approval to actually sell cultivated meat — recently announced it will build the MENA region’s first-ever cultivated meat facility in Qatar. Others, including Mission Barns, Future Meat, and MeaTech have all announced facilities, too.
The UPSIDE facility will initially employ around 50 people across production, maintenance, quality and food safety, engineering, and general plant management.
“Today, our team at UPSIDE has made history,” said Dr. Konrad Müller-Auffermann, Senior Director of Engineering at UPSIDE. “This facility is a gamechanger not just for UPSIDE Foods, but also for the entire food system. I’m so proud of our team for helping to define the future of food, and I can’t wait to share our delicious, real meat with the world.”
Lead image courtesy of UPSIDE Foods.