Meat from the lab may soon be on a plate near you.
The Food and Drug Administration has declared lab-grown chicken “safe to eat,” potentially revolutionizing U.S. food processing practices forever.
The agency’s statement, which came out Wednesday, specifically pertains to cultured chicken produced by a California start-up, Upside Foods. However, it may soon be extended to synthetic meats manufactured by many other companies.
“The world is going through a food revolution and the FDA is committed to supporting innovation in the food supply,” Commissioner Robert M. Califf said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Costa Yiannoulis of Synthesis Capital, the world’s largest food technology fund, excitedly told The Washington Post, “We’ll see this as the day the food system really started to change. The US is the first significant market to have approved this – this is seismic and groundbreaking.”
Singapore is currently the only country where lab-grown meat can be legally sold to consumers.
To produce its meat, Upside Foods harvests cells from chicken tissue and grows edible chicken meat under controlled conditions in bioreactors. The company insists that the cultured meat is identical to that of conventionally raised and butchered chickens. The FDA has detailed the laboratory process.
“Dozens” of larger U.S. food companies are hoping to create their own homegrown meats, according to the Washington Post, and more FDA announcements are likely to follow in the near future.
“This is a critical milestone toward the future of food,” Bruce Friedrich, president of the Good Food Institute, told the publication. “Farm-cultured meat will soon be available to consumers in the US who want their favorite foods made more sustainably, with production requiring a fraction of the land and water of conventional meat when produced at scale.”
In addition to the environmental benefits, the FDA’s statement could reduce animal cruelty. It can also lead many vegetarians to wonder if they would start consuming meat if it didn’t involve slaughtering animals.
However, high prices and consumer skepticism could delay the move to lab-made meat, meaning restaurants and supermarkets may not be stocking it in large quantities anytime soon.
Like the FDA, New York University Professor Marion Nestle believes cultured meat is safe for human consumption, but she understands why some Americans are skeptical.
“It is a technological solution to a complex problem. We just don’t know enough about it,” Nestle told USA Today. “I think there are reasons for hesitation that make sense of course.”