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Lab cultivated chicken will soon be sold throughout the US

In a move that could help to transition the farming industry away from its polluting and barbaric roots, the commercial sale of lab grown meat has just been approved in the US.

The phrase ‘farm to fork’ has always been a big thing in the US, but there will soon be another alternative.

Over the weekend, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that cruelty free meat curated under laboratory conditions is free to go fully commercial.

The company that secured the victory is called Upside Foods and is based in California. Its chicken meat, which can be grown on a large scale with just a few living cells from the actual bird, has become the first to pass through all the red tape.

Like many other lab grown meats in pre-production, this chicken doesn’t involve the slaughter of any animal and bares none of the ecological drawbacks associated with rearing them. For clarity, current food systems account for nearly one third of all global emissions.

Making food more sustainable was a major focus at COP27, which just wrapped up in Egypt. Pasture and cropland occupy half of the planet’s habitable land and use 70% of fresh water supplies – making the industry an ecological menace right up there alongside fossil fuels.

The process of harvesting animal cells and multiplying them within a bioreactor instantly negates almost all of this damage. ‘The US is the first meaningful market that has approved this… this is seismic and ground-breaking,’ said Costa Yiannoulis, a chief at a food technology VC firm Synthesis Capital.

With the major sign off complete, Upside Foods will now have to get each of its products approved by regulators, meaning it will likely be some months before lab meat appears in US supermarkets.

In the meantime, the FDA remains engaged in discussions with multiple firms to open up similar ventures, including the sale of seafood grown within bioreactors using the same process.

As it stands, there are some 150 cultivated meat companies around the world backed by billions in investment, but Singapore is the only other country where this market is even legal.

The growing participation of an economic powerhouse such as the US will likely be a huge factor in breaking similar projects elsewhere. ‘We will see this as the day the food system really started changing,’ added Yiannoulis.

With the proof of principal phase well and truly out the way and the product deemed safe, the next biggest concern is marketing and whether consumers will respond well to the idea of lab cultivated meat.

This emerging industry will no doubt lean heavily on the environmental angle, imploring people to engage in issues with factory farming and animal welfare, just as meat alternative companies have.

Speaking of which, the way in which people have already taken to plant-based substitutes gives us room to feel optimistic. But, harkening back to livestock stats we mentioned earlier, these companies still have their work massively cut out to make a dent.