FDA clears lab-grown meat for human consumption

Hands hold a chicken sandwich over a blue plate with fries on it.
A cultured chicken sandwich made by Upside Foods. (Courtesy of Upside Foods)

For the first time, the Food and Drug Administration has cleared lab-grown meat, created from cultured animal cells, for human consumption, the agency announced on Wednesday.

The FDA green light applies only to chicken products made by Upside Foods, a California-based company founded in 2015, though in its announcement the FDA said it is ready to work with other firms that are developing cultured animal cell food.

The agency said that it had evaluated information submitted by Upside Foods as part of a pre-market consultation, and that it had “no further questions at this time about the firm’s safety conclusion.”

The company can begin selling its product after inspection and label approval by the Department of Agriculture. Upside makes cell-cultivated meat using biopsies from living animals as well as “recently slaughtered animals who were already a part of the food system.” It expects these cells to be capable of indefinitely self-renewing, with the goal of eventually phasing out all animal components.

An Upside spokesperson said in an emailed statement to Yahoo News that the company is “thrilled” by the FDA’s “historic announcement.”

“Cultivated meat has never been closer to the U.S. market than it is today,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson added that in addition to eliminating “the need to raise and slaughter billions of animals,” cultivated meat is projected to use substantially less water and land than farmed meat, and producing meat in a controlled environment may reduce the risk of harmful bacterial contamination.

Meat and dairy alone are responsible for 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations. But while proponents of cultivated meat point to its environmental benefits by cutting greenhouse gas emissions, some experts are still debating whether large-scale cultured meat industries may exacerbate climate change by contributing to carbon pollution.