Lazy eyes listen
On Wednesday, the US Department of Agriculture approved the sale of synthetic “chicken” created in a lab from animal cells by two California-based companies.
The federal inspections required to sell animal products in the United States have been approved for Upside Foods and Good Meat. In November, the US Food and Drug Administration declared their goods, known as “cell-cultivated” or “cultured” chicken, safe for human consumption.
Unlike previous meat replacements, which use plant proteins to simulate the texture and flavor of animal products, this new breed of synthetic meat is developed in steel tanks utilizing cells derived from a living animal, a fertilized egg, or other biological material derived from an animal. Producers believe that it will one day supplement, if not completely replace, farm-raised varieties as an environmentally friendly and ethically unquestionable option.
Despite this aim, lab-grown meats remain prohibitively pricey for supermarkets, according to Ricardo San Martin, head of the University of California, Berkeley’s Alt:Meat Lab. Neither Upside nor Good would tell reporters how much a single lab-made chicken cutlet would currently cost, instead asserting that the price had dropped dramatically since they began their quest to create the ultimate poultry.
For the time being, the companies want to avoid the consumer-price issue by working with expensive restaurants, selling their synthetic chicken as a luxury commodity at Bar Crenn in San Francisco (Upside) and an undisclosed restaurant in Washington, DC (commodity). They eventually intend to sell it for around $20 per pound, which is comparable to the price of high-end organic chicken.
In a February AP-NORC poll, half of US adults indicated they were unlikely to taste lab-grown meat. Only 18% said they were very or very likely to attempt it, while the other 30% said they were somewhat likely. While the majority of opponents stated that “it just sounds weird,” nearly half were also concerned about the safety of such products.
Because its initial production runs will be restricted – Upside claims it can only grow 50,000 pounds of “chicken” in its Emeryville facility per year – there will be no shortage of demand. Upside COO Amy Chen, who acknowledged the “ick factor” inherent in the idea of lab-grown meat, told the AP that most people who test her company’s product come around to the idea, claiming that “the most common response we get is, ‘Oh, it tastes like chicken’.”
Along with the rise of synthetic meat, cities such as New York and London are actively urging inhabitants to reduce their use of actual meat, citing environmental concerns. New York City Mayor Eric Adams has unveiled a contentious program that limits public institutions’ use of meat and dairy products.