Companies' cultivated chicken cells obtain regulatory approval

Two companies have received final approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to begin commercial production and sales of human food from cultured animal cells to the public.

On June 21, Upside Foods and Good Meat announced that they had obtained a grant of inspection for their cultured chicken cells from the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) earlier in June.

Good Meat's cultivated chicken is made from cells that are fed a nutrient-rich broth and harvested from a cell culture tank. The entire process takes place in a controlled environment such as the pilot plant seen here. (Photos courtesy of Good Meat)

The companies are the first to complete both the USDA and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval processes. The FDA had already issued its approvals to Upside in November 2022 and to Good Meat in March 2023.

Cell-cultured human food is developed from animal stem cells and cultivated in a solution, with the help of nutrients such as amino acids, in massive bioreactors. The process takes place within a couple of weeks, then the resulting product is removed from the bioreactor and formed into human food. These products are subject to the same FSIS regulatory requirements and oversight authority food products derived from the slaughter of amenable species.

In a press release, Eric Schulze, vice president of global and scientific affairs at Upside Foods said, "We are grateful for the FDA's and USDA's thoughtful and rigorous review processes, which have enabled us to start bringing safe, delicious, and high-quality cultivated meat products to market in the U.S."

Bar Crenn, a Michelin-star restaurant in San Francisco, will serve the cultured chicken at a series of ongoing Upside dinner services starting later this year, followed by other restaurant partners.

Good Meat is made from animal cells sourced from chicken fibroblasts and established cell banks. Good Meat's first product was cultivated chicken, which was approved for sale in Singapore in late 2020.

The AVMA does not have policy specifically on laboratory-cultured cells. However, AVMA's "Truthful and Non-misleading Human Food Labeling" policy supports truthful and non-misleading labeling of animal-derived human food products and, among other criteria, indicates that "claims on labels regarding production practices should be clear, unambiguous, scientifically valid, and verifiable."

The AVMA Board of Directors, during its June 15 meeting, approved the policy, "Marketing Claims Regarding Agricultural Animal Food Products." This policy distinguishes between labeling of animal-derived human food products that abide by the AVMA policy "Truthful and Non-misleading Human Food Labeling"—and are held to defined standards—with those marketing claims made by companies to set their products apart from competitors.

With respect to such marketing claims, the FDA refers to this technology as human food made with cultured animal cells. To the extent that the starting material for this human food is derived from food-producing species, the policy states that the AVMA believes veterinarians have an oversight role in the care and husbandry of the animals from which these cells are obtained.