Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) is on a mission to change the food system for the better, and he came one step closer to that goal recently when he sampled cultivated meat for the first time. Last week, Booker visited Eat Just’s California headquarters for a tour and tasting of the company’s GOOD Meat chicken, a slaughter-free meat that is grown in a bioreactor.
“It was a thrill having Sen. Cory Booker join for a tour, tasting, and roundtable discussion about key issues facing our food system,” Andrew Noyes, VP, Head of Global Communications and Public Affairs for Eat Just, posted on LinkedIn. “The longtime plant-based politician ate meat for the first time since the 1990s—GOOD Meat, which is tasty and slaughter-free.”
Booker’s reaction: “It tastes phenomenal. Wow!”
Following his time at Eat Just, Booker conducted an interview on Pod Save America, where he talked about the experience tasting cultivated meat. He also tried some vegan fast food in Los Angeles with host Jon Lovett and shared his perspective on how to get people to change their eating habits to build a better and more equitable food system.
“Empathy is the most necessary ingredient in change,” Booker said. “You have to get people to know first—to confront the moral urgencies.”
Cory Booker wants to end factory farming
Booker has been vegan since 2014 and is a longtime advocate for reforming agricultural systems, particularly factory farming, to create a more equitable food system for people and animals.
In 2021, Booker became the first vegan senator on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, which is empowered with legislative oversight of matters relating to the nation’s agriculture industry and farming programs, among others.
Earlier this year, he introduced a number of bills to the committee that are geared towards reforming the country’s agriculture sector, including the Farm System Reform Act (FSRA), Industrial Agriculture Accountability Act, Protecting America’s Meatpacking Workers Act, and Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act.
“For years I have worked to elevate the voices of farmers, workers, and consumers in urban and rural communities, sounding the alarm about our broken food system and calling for change,” Booker said in a statement.
Since the United States Congress authorized nearly $430 billion in public spending via the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (more commonly known as the Farm Bill), a host of unforeseen crises have affected the nation’s food and farm systems: the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain disruptions both domestically and internationally, and inflation of American grocery staples, to name a few.
“The COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and recent climate change-related disasters have highlighted how fragile our current food system is,” Booker said. “So I’m excited to re-introduce a package of bills that would help mold our food system into one that is more competitive, resilient, humane, and just for everyone.”
For one, the FSRA aims to transition animal agriculture away from factory farming by banning the opening of new large-scale concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and limit the growth of existing CAFOs in the meat and dairy sector. It also aims to phase out the largest CAFOs by 2040 and hold large meatpackers accountable for the pollution they create.
“I’m eager to work with my colleagues on the Senate Agriculture Committee to make meaningful progress on these issues, because the status quo created by agribusiness special interests is putting all of us at risk,” Booker said.
GOOD Meat receives FDA clearance
Booker’s emphasis on these issues also comes with the opportunity to improve the system in other ways, including introducing safe and sustainable alternatives to traditionally produced meat such as cultivated meat.
Earlier this week, GOOD Meat received a “no questions” letter from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as part of one of the agency’s first pre-market consultations for a new kind of meat, poultry, and seafood made from cells instead of raised and slaughtered animals.
The letter means that, following a careful and rigorous evaluation, the FDA has accepted the company’s conclusion that its first poultry product, cultivated chicken, is safe to eat. GOOD Meat is second to UPSIDE Foods, which received a “no questions” from the FDA last year.
This clears a crucial step in bringing GOOD Meat to restaurants and retail in the US, more than two years after its historic approval and launch in Singapore. The company is now working with the US Department of Agriculture on necessary approvals.
When ready, world-renowned chef José Andrés will become the first in the country to offer GOOD Meat’s chicken to customers at a restaurant in Washington, DC. Andrés joined GOOD Meat’s Board of Directors in 2021 and has been a vocal proponent of leveraging innovation to build a better food system for people and the planet.
Previously, GOOD Meat received regulatory approvals for its chicken in Singapore in 2020, 2021, and 2023, and it remains the only cultivated meat producer in the world with the ability to sell to consumers. Since its launch, the company’s chicken has been featured on menus at fine dining establishments, popular hawker stalls, via the foodpanda delivery platform, and most recently by reservation at Huber’s Butchery, one of Singapore’s premier producers and suppliers of high-quality meats.
When submitting evidence to the FDA, safety and quality validations by GOOD Meat demonstrated that harvested cultivated chicken met poultry microbiological and purity standards, with microbiological levels significantly cleaner than conventional chicken. The analysis also demonstrated that GOOD Meat’s cultivated chicken contains high protein content, a well-balanced amino acid profile and is a rich source of minerals.
“Since Singapore approved GOOD Meat for sale, we knew this moment was next,” Josh Tetrick, co-founder and CEO of GOOD Meat and Eat Just, said in a statement. “I am so proud to bring this new way of making meat to my country and to do it with a hero of mine, Chef José Andrés.”