Americans will soon have the opportunity to taste chicken grown from cells. This week, two California-based companies named UPSIDE Foods and Eat Just, Inc. have received approval from the USDA to produce and sell cell-cultivated chicken commercially.
For years, industry pioneers and consumer advocates have emphasized the potential of cell-grown chicken as a solution to avoid diseases and viruses prevalent in industrial poultry production. The method enables chicken to be grown in a closely monitored environment, ensuring a more hygienic approach. While plant-based proteins have become more commonplace on dinner tables and at restaurants in recent years, alternative animal proteins have been limited until now.
The U.S. is the second country, after Singapore, to approve cell-cultivated protein. Here’s what to anticipate if you are trying cell-cultivated chicken for the first time:
What is Cell-Cultivated Chicken?
Though often referred to as “lab-grown” chicken, cell-cultivated chicken is a better term for the product, according to the two companies. The USDA has approved this term for labeling purposes. Cultivated chicken is sourced from a single chicken cell, unlike plant-based proteins that use soy or mushrooms. It falls under the category of alternative proteins. ## Revolutionary technology makes testing tube-grown chicken meat a reality
Researchers have come up with technology that allows for the separation of a single cell from a feather plucked from a living chicken. This cell is then submerged in a testing tube where it is fed nutrients and given the right conditions to multiply and grow. The end result is meat that is cell-cultivated, meaning that it is grown entirely in a laboratory using cutting-edge technology. Bioreactors provide the perfect conditions for the growth of this meat, replicating the temperature and moisture levels within the body of a chicken.
Introducing the chefs who are putting these products on the menu
The incredible technology behind cell-cultivated chicken meat has piqued the interest of some of the world’s top chefs who are partnering with manufacturers to make these products available to diners across the globe.
First up we have chef José Andrés, who will be serving GOOD Meat – the chicken product created by Eat Just – at his Washington-based Chinese-Peruvian restaurant, China Chilcano. As a renowned chef with over 30 restaurants to his name, his support of this revolutionary technology is sure to put it on the map.
Meanwhile, UPSIDE Food has enlisted the help of Michelin-starred chef Dominique Crenn. Her San Francisco wine bar, Bar Crenn, will be the first place to serve UPSIDE’s cultivated chicken. This brand is making waves in the industry and Crenn’s involvement is testament to its potential for a bright future.
When will cell-cultivated chicken become widely available?
UPSIDE, a San Francisco-based startup, has yet to announce a specific date for when its cell-cultivated chicken will appear on the menu at Bar Crenn. However, the company’s ultimate goal is to sell this product globally in grocery stores across the world. Initially, it will be available at upscale restaurants, but the startup plans to expand its distribution to locations that traditionally sell meat.
“We want them to be equally suitable for a Michelin-star restaurant or a backyard BBQ,” a representative from UPSIDE stated in an email.
Meanwhile, Eat Just also plans to launch its GOOD Meat brand of cell-cultivated chicken in the United States. The timeline of the launch will be similar to that of its initial release in Singapore, where the product first appeared at a members-only club before expanding in collaboration with a local food-delivery app. Today, it is also sold by Huber’s Butchery, a Singaporean meat producer and supplier. Eat Just is currently producing a limited amount of the product because of production cost constraints. The company also added that it does not currently make any profits from this venture.
Will cell-cultivated chicken be affordable?
The cost of production still remains a challenge in pricing cell-grown chicken. Consequently, Eat Just noted that it will need to overcome some remaining technical and engineering hurdles before it can begin mass-producing this product.
Presently, Eat Just’s cell-cultivated chicken sells for roughly the same price as conventionally grown chicken in Singapore.
Huber’s Butchery Offers SGD $18.50 GOOD Meat Sandwiches
Huber’s Butchery in Singapore is now selling chicken kebabs and sandwiches made with GOOD Meat for SGD $18.50, which is equivalent to $13.40. On Foodpanda, a Caesar salad featuring GOOD Meat’s chicken is available for SGD $20 or US $14.80, according to a video GOOD Meat shared in May.
GOOD Meat’s cell-cultivated chicken has also been used to make chicken katsu curry and chicken rice by various other businesses.
Upside Food’s Goal
A spokesperson for Upside Food revealed that their product may be more expensive than traditional chicken at first, but the eventual goal is to be more affordable than traditional chicken products.
Taste of Cell-Cultivated Chicken
According to online reviews of Eat Just’s cultivated chicken, largely consumed in Singapore, the taste of cell-cultivated chicken is quite similar to that of real chicken.
CNET Senior European Correspondent Katie Collins gave the chicken a positive review after tasting it during COP27 — the annual UN conference on climate change — as part of a three-course meal. Collins said that the crispy chicken skin was her favorite part and described it as “substantive” with a “buttery, fatty taste you want from chicken skin.”
While better than current processed chicken products, Collins wrote that it still lacked the fibrous texture of traditional chicken, collapsing too easily under pressure instead of offering some resistance when bitten into.