For most of our lives, only one type of meat has dominated grocery store shelves: the traditional kind, made with real, slaughtered animals. Over the last few years, we’ve started to see a new kind of meat, made from plants, become more readily available. And soon, a third type could be gracing the frozen aisle: cultivated meat, made from real animals, but without the slaughter.
Just a few months after it received the nod of approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), California cultivated meat company Good Meat (a subsidiary of vegan egg brand Eat Just) has been showing the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) around its facilities.
In a post on LinkedIn, Eat Just revealed that Sanah Baig, the USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics had visited its headquarters to witness how it makes both its vegan egg products and cultivated chicken, which is grown from real animal cells in bioreactors.
Alongside Ilya Sheyman, the CEO of alternative protein non-profit think tank The Good Food Institute, Baig also tasted the brand’s cultivated meat.
“We appreciate the integral work that the US government and advocacy groups like The Good Food Institute are doing to ensure that we have a safe, secure, and more sustainable food system for the future,” Eat Just noted in the post.
When will cultivated meat be available in the US?
Good Meat is getting closer to commercialization in the US, but it’s not quite there yet.
In March, it became the second cultivated meat startup (after Upside Foods) to receive a “no questions” letter from the FDA, which moved it a significant step closer to sale, but there are still hoops the brand must jump through before we can see its products on the shelves or restaurant menus in the US.
Before things can really start to accelerate for the brand, it must receive a mark of inspection and label approval from the USDA. We still can’t say exactly when that will happen, but given the recent LinkedIn post, the milestone may be inching closer.
Is cultivated meat really slaughter-free?
Selling cultivated meat in the US would be a monumental achievement, but it won’t be the first time Good Meat has been able to produce cultivated chicken for consumers.
In 2020, Singapore allowed the company to start selling its chicken in the country’s restaurants for the first time. And in early 2023, things again took a step forward when it approved a fetal bovine serum-free production process for the meat.
The use of fetal bovine serum (FBS) in producing cultivated meat is one of the biggest sticking points for vegan consumers. It is derived from the blood of a bovine fetus and is usually collected at slaughterhouses.
According to Eat Just Vice President Andrew Noyes, in the US, Good Meat will be pushing for approval of the same FBS-free process from the FDA. “Moving to non-animal derived nutrients will not only lead to greater scalability and lower manufacturing costs but also a more sustainable product,” he told Agfunder Network Partners back in March 2023.
“My hope is this leads to a world in the next handful of years where the majority of meat doesn’t require killing a single animal or tearing down a single tree,” Eat Just CEO Josh Tetrick said after Good Meat received Singaporean approval.
Cultivated meat might not be perfect, but when it comes to its impact on the meat industry, advocates claim it is important to look at the bigger picture.
In the US, the United States Department of Agriculture predicts that nearly 10 billion land animals were slaughtered in 2020. And research suggests the majority of those animals will have spent their lives in cramped, industrialized factory farm conditions.
Ultimately, growing meat from cells, which can be obtained from living animals, presents a more ethical alternative.