A historic milestone for chickens! We are pleased to announce that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved the sale of ‘cultivated’ chicken in a landmark decision that has allowed two start-ups in California, Upside Foods and GOOD Meat, to sell meat that has not come from a slaughtered animal.
What is cultivated meat?
‘Cell-cultivated’ or ‘cultured’ meat is produced from stem cells derived from animals, grown in a nutrient-rich bioreactor, producing meat without the need for rearing and slaughtering animals. Its authorisation for sale heralds the start of a new era in meat production – and potentially the beginning of the end of factory farming.
Paving the way for the world to follow
The authorised sale of cultivated chicken from Upside Foods and Good Meat came months after the US Food and Drug Administration deemed that it was safe to eat. Prior to this, just one country – Singapore in 2020 – had approved cultivated meat for sale.
Nir Goldstein, the Israel Head of the Good Food Institute commented: “The US regulatory authorities have a strong reputation globally, so the world is likely to now follow that lead.”
In the UK, the Government has already laid out a policy paper (January 2022), showing support for significant innovations, including cultivated meats, and stated it would deliver a regulatory framework that provided an economic advantage.
Ending animal suffering - saving the planet
Cultivated meat has great potential to reduce both animal suffering and the environmental impact of factory farming. It provides one of the key solutions to combat the combined crises of climate change and food security.
Over 9.5 billion chickens are reared for meat in the US (and over 6 billion in the EU) each year. The vast majority of these are from fast-growing breeds that suffer a plethora of health and welfare issues, including heart defects, severe lameness and poor immunity, and are sadly unable to behave like chickens.
Livestock farming is responsible for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions according to the United Nations, and farming animals creates more emissions than transportation. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has identified high-meat diets from intensively farmed livestock as running counter to efforts to combat climate change and cited cellular meat among the answers*1.
Supporting sustainable diets
To meet the EAT Lancet Planetary Health Diet targets, consumers need to significantly reduce their meat consumption and cultivated meat is one of the potential solutions to support this change. Cultivated meat production has been found to be 80 to 95 percent lower in greenhouse gas emissions, and 98 percent lower in land use, than conventionally produced meat products*2.
Upside Foods and Good Meat aim to start selling their new products into exclusive restaurants. However, more than 150 companies across the globe are focusing their efforts towards producing more chicken, pork, fish and beef products from cells rather than farmed animals. As the volume of cultivated meat grows, it will become more affordable and we will start seeing products more widely available on our supermarket shelves.
Even the world’s largest meat producers are getting involved – BioTech, a subsidiary of JBS SA, has begun construction in Spain on what is expected to be the world’s largest cultivated meat plant when completed by mid-2024.
Consumer acceptance is key
Consumer acceptance is key if cultivated meat is to succeed. A recent poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that half of US adults said they were unlikely to try meat grown from animal cells, citing concerns around safety or the oddness of the concept. But with increased awareness and understanding of the huge benefits it can offer - reducing animal suffering on factory farms and cutting global emissions - cultivated meat has the potential for broad sector appeal, particularly as the taste and texture of these products appear to be acceptable.
Dr Tracey Jones, Director of Food Business at Compassion in World Farming, commented: “Cultivated meat has the potential to satisfy the desire for real meat while saving billions of animals currently suffering in factory farms around the world.
“To stay within our planetary boundaries, we need to significantly reduce our meat consumption which is a major driver of climate change, biodiversity loss, and the human health crises.
“Cultivated meat not only helps combat these issues but could be transformational in moving us towards a more extensive, regenerative farming systems, where animals can lead their best quality of lives in harmony with nature and not against it.
“It’s still early days and there are some big challenges to overcome, such as increasing the scale of production, price and consumer acceptance. However, this has the potential to be the beginning of the end of factory farming – the biggest cause of animal cruelty on the planet.”
*1 IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land - Summary for Policy Makers. 2019. Page B.6.2
*2 Life cycle Assessment of Cultured Meat Production, H. Tuomisto, M.J. Teixeira de Mattos. Italy : VII International Conference on Life Cycle Assessment in the Agri-Food Sector, 2010.
*3 9. A. Scharf, E. Breitmayer, M. Carus. Review and gap-analysis of LCA-studies of cultured meat. s.l. : GFI, 2019.
*4 al, Morach et. The Untapped Climate Opportunity in Alternative Proteins. s.l. : Boston Consulting Group, 2022.