We’ve heard more and more about laboratory meat. Other names for it are cultured meat, cultivated meat, or test tube meat. Whatever name ends up sticking, the idea is to take living cells from animals and grow them in a controlled laboratory environment to produce a meat product that doesn’t involve the slaughter of any animals. Supporters say cultured meat is more efficient and environmentally friendly than traditional livestock. Livestock agriculture is one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, uses vast amounts of land, and consumes much of the world’s fresh water.
Years ago, we reported on a company called Memphis Meats, which was one of a number of companies developing techniques for harvesting cells from animal tissues and using them to grow edible flesh in bioreactors.
Recently, that company – now called Upside Foods – has become the first company to receive FDA approval declaring their meat product to be safe for human consumption. The USDA still needs to give its approval and it may be a little while longer before Upside’s first chicken products will end up in supermarkets. There are more than 150 cultivated meat companies around the world backed by billions of dollars in investments. The FDA is in ongoing discussions with multiple firms in the business.
Upside Foods, based in the San Francisco Bay area, is planning to market chicken, beef meatballs, and duck in the near future. Other companies are working on seafood products. Up until now, Singapore has been the only country in which lab-grown meat products are legally sold to consumers. With this landmark FDA ruling, that is all about to change.
Photo, posted April 15, 2008, courtesy of Andrew Otto via Flickr.