At the end of last year, Israeli cultured meat company Believer Meats broke ground on a 200,000-square-foot factory outside Raleigh, North Carolina. The facility will be the biggest cultured meat factory in the world (well, unless a bigger one goes up before it’s done, which is unlikely).
However, the sale of cultured meat isn’t fully legal in the US yet (in fact, the only countries where the meat can be sold right now are Singapore and Israel), so regulations are going to need to keep pace with production capacity to make such facilities worth building. Last week California-based Good Meat took a step in this direction, receiving a crucial FDA approval for sale of its cultured chicken in the US.
Cultured meat is made by taking muscle cells from a live animal (without harming it) and feeding those cells a mixture of nutrients and growth factors to make them multiply, differentiate, and grow to form muscle tissue. The harvested tissue then needs to be refined and shaped into a final product, which can involve extrusion cooking, molding, or 3D printing.
Good Meat was the first company in the world to start selling cultured meat, with its chicken hitting the Singaporean market in 2020. This past January the company hit another milestone when the Singapore Food Agency granted them approval to sell serum-free meat in Singapore (“serum-free” means they can use synthetic ingredients in their production process, specifically eliminating fetal bovine serum, which makes animal cells duplicate).
Now Good Meat has made headway in what it hopes will be its biggest market, the US. They received an FDA approval called a No Questions letter, which states that after conducting a thorough evaluation of the company’s meat, the agency concluded it’s safe for consumers to eat. Besides meeting microbiological and purity standards (the press release notes that cultured chicken’s microbiological levels are “significantly cleaner” than conventional chicken), the evaluation found that Good Meat’s chicken contains “high protein content, a well-balanced amino acid profile, and is a rich source of minerals.”
Good Meat isn’t the first company to receive this approval in the US. Its competitor Upside Foods got a No Questions letter for its cultured chicken last November. Their 53,000-square-foot production center in the Bay Area will eventually be able to produce more than 400,000 pounds of meat, poultry, and seafood per year. Before becoming available in grocery stores, Upside’s chicken will be introduced to consumers in restaurants, starting with an upscale restaurant in San Francisco whose chef is Michelin-starred.
Similarly, Good Meat plans to launch its cultured chicken at a Washington DC restaurant owned by celebrity chef José Andrés. Before that can happen, though, the company has to work with the US Department of Agriculture to receive additional approvals for its production facilities and its product.
The company is building a demonstration plant in Singapore, and announced plans last year to build a large-scale facility in the US with an annual production capacity of 30 million pounds of meat (which means it will be bigger than the Believer Meats plant in North Carolina).
Good Meat will have its work cut out for it, as there are more than 80 other companies vying for a slice of the lab-grown meat market, which is projected to reach a value of $12.7 billion by 2030. Given that all of its competitors will have to go through the FDA and USDA approvals process, though, Good Meat has a leg up.
Image Credit: Good Meat