Breaking: Upside Foods, Eat Just Earn USDA Label Approval for Cultivated Meat: ‘A Major Step Forward’
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California’s Upside Foods earns USDA label approval for its cultivated meat just days after Eat Just earned the same clearance for its cultivated chicken, bringing cell-based meat one step closer to American plates.
The label approval for Upside Foods’ cell-cultivated chicken came on Monday, the company said in a statement. The USDA approval follows its historic FDA approval last November, the first step toward regulatory approval.
Eat Just reported that it earned the same USDA label approval last week for its cell-based chicken.
In a statement shared with Green Queen, Eat Just said the company has had months of “insightful and productive” conversations with the USDA.
“We were pleased to receive formal approval of our label on June 8,” Eat Just said. “The USDA District Office has become familiar with our processes and products and their staff has been very collaborative throughout this process. We look forward to receiving our grant of inspection in due course and beginning production of cultivated chicken.”
‘A major step forward’
“The USDA’s approval of our label marks a major step forward towards our goal of creating a more humane and sustainable food system,” Dr. Uma Valeti, CEO and Founder of Upside Foods said in a statement.
“We’re excited to continue working with the USDA to achieve our next milestone: a Grant of Inspection (GOI) for our facility. Obtaining the USDA’s GOI will clear the way for commercial production and sales and allow us to bring our delicious Upside chicken to consumers for the first time.”
Like conventionally produced meat, cell-based meat is also required to satisfy regulatory labeling and inspection criteria in order to be sold. The USDA label approval means the company has demonstrated full pre-market requirements. The Grant of Inspection for Upside’s Engineering, Production, and Innovation Center (EPIC) facility in California, will be the final hurdle before it can begin production. Upside says the EPIC factory can produce 400,000 pounds of cultivated meat per year.
Cultivated meat coming to a menu near you?
“At this rate, consumers in the U.S. may see cultivated meat on menus by the end of 2023,” Jenny Stojkovic, founder of the Vegan Women Summit and author of The Future of Food Is Female, wrote in a LinkedIn post.
Upside says the Dominique Crenn-helmed San Francisco bar Crenn will be the first menu stop for the cultivated meat.
Eat Just says world-renowned chef and humanitarian José Andrés will be the first in the country to offer its cultivated chicken to customers at a restaurant in Washington, D.C. once approved. The José Andrés Group operates more than 30 restaurants across the country.
“The release of cultivated meat will be in very, very limited restaurants across the U.S. to start,” Stojkovic says. “We are still years out from retail distribution, but things will move quicker as capacity and scale is achieved.”
Eat Just is currently the only company selling cultivated meat in the world; Singapore granted the company’s cell-based chicken approval in 2020.
Both Upside and Eat Just are rumored to still be using fetal bovine serum (FBS) — a controversial growth media. “The FDA has a long history of FBS products,” Stojkovic says. She says those with the ingredient are approved faster than those made without FBS.
According to Stojkovic, “many” other cultivated meat producers both in the U.S. and elsewhere have since applied for FDA approval and, she says, “more approval letters are expected in coming months.”
Editor’s note, June 14, 2023: This article was edited to clarify that Upside is the second company to earn USDA label approval (on June 12, 2023) after Eat Just’s Good Meat (on June 8, 2023). A comment from Eat Just was also included.