February 21, 2024

Chickens produced in the lab from chicken cells.

Trichet | Associated Press

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved the sale of chicken grown from cells, a landmark decision that clears the way for consumers to try it themselves, two startups that received the first approval said Wednesday.

Cultured meat, also known as cultured, cell-based or lab-grown protein, is made by placing stem cells from animal fat or muscle into a culture medium that provides the cells with nutrients to allow them to grow. The medium is then put into a bioreactor to support the growth of the cells, resulting in a final product that looks and tastes like traditional meat.

Outside the US, only Singapore has approved the sale of cell-cultured meat.

The USDA has approved Eat Just’s subsidiaries Good Meat and Upside Foods. Both companies received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration a few months ago, saying each company’s lab-grown chicken is safe for human consumption.

As a result of that decision, the USDA will inspect cultured meat facilities just as they inspect traditional meatpacking plants and slaughterhouses.

Meat produced by Upside Foods and Good Meat will be labeled as “cell-cultured chicken” when sold to consumers.

Good Meat has also received approval to sell its cultured meat in Singapore, where it will be sold to consumers from December 2020.

“Announcing that we are now able to produce and sell plant-based meat in the United States is an important moment for our company, the industry and the food system,” Eat Just CEO and co-founder Josh Tetrick said in a statement.

Good Meat’s manufacturing partner, Joinn Biologics, has also received USDA approval to produce the plant-based meat.

Chef Jose Andres has placed his first order for Good Meat’s farm-raised chicken to be served at an undisclosed restaurant in Washington, D.C., the company said.

Upside Foods has also received its first order for farm-raised chicken. Chef Dominique Crenn will be available in limited quantities at San Francisco’s Bar Crenn.

“This approval will fundamentally change the way meat comes to our table,” Upside founder and CEO Uma Valeti said in a statement. “It’s a huge step towards a more sustainable future – one that preserves choice and life.”

Investors are betting on the plant-based meat industry instead as consumer interest in plant-based meat wanes. Eat Just has raised $978.5 million to date, and Upside has raised $608.4 million, according to Pitchbook.