GOOD Meat, a company that raises chicken and other meat from animal cells without slaughtering animals, has overcome a major FDA safety hurdle. The approval brings the company one step closer to selling its products in the US.
The regulator issued a “no questions asked” letter as part of a pre-market consultation, meaning the agency agrees with the company’s conclusion that its cultured chicken is safe to eat.
The company must now obtain inspection approval from the USDA in order to operate its manufacturing facility in Alameda, California. “We’re working with the USDA to remove this final hurdle,” GOOD Meat CEO Josh Tetrick told NPR.
The company says that celebrity chef Jose Andres has agreed to offer GOOD Meat chicken to his customers at one of his restaurants in Washington, DC.
GOOD Meat has been selling its chicken in Singapore since 2020, but so far there are no products made from cultured animal cells on the US market. With more than 80 companies betting on the future in this area, the USDA and the FDA are working together. on regulatory oversight to ensure cultured meat entering the US market is safe and properly labelled.
“Today’s news is about more than just another regulatory decision — it’s transforming the food system in action,” says Bruce Friedrich, president and founder of the Good Food Institute, a nonprofit think tank that explores alternatives to traditional meat production. Friedrich points to the potential environmental benefits of cultured meat.
“Consumers and future generations deserve to have the products they love produced in a more sustainable way and in ways that benefit society – in ways that conserve our land and water, in ways that protect our climate and global health,” says Friedrich.
The GOOD Meat production hall looks like a brewery, filled with large shiny stainless steel tanks. During a recent tour of the facility, GOOD Meat scientist Vitor Espiritu Santo explains how the meat is grown.
First, they extract a bunch of cells from chickens. They then feed the cells a mixture of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates—the same things that cells would get if they were in an animal body. The cells then begin to proliferate and grow.
“Think of yeast fermentation,” says Espirito Santo. “The processes are the same. We feed them nutrients and they will continue to multiply until we tell them to stop,” he says.
Meat grows inside tanks on trays. After it comes out, it is molded into shapes such as nuggets or fillets. After three to four weeks they are ready to grill.
GOOD Meat is the second cultured meat company to receive FDA clearance.
The agency made history last fall when it told Upside Foods that it agreed with the company’s assessment that its cultured chicken was safe to eat.
Upside Foods was founded by a cardiologist who believes growing meat from cells is the best way to bring meat to the table. Last fall, while on tour, Dr. Uma Valeti showed NPR reporters a glass-walled complex to demonstrate the transparency of the process. “In order to change the paradigm, people need to be able to walk through, see and believe it,” he says.
Upside Foods is also awaiting USDA approval.