first go-ahead from the American authorities for its marketing

US authorities have deemed it safe to eat synthetic meat produced in a laboratory by a Californian company. This paves the way for their distribution in the United States.

Lab-grown meat is expected to hit supermarket shelves soon. In a press release published on Nov. 16, the US Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave the green light to cultured meat company Upside Foods to market its synthetic chicken.

If its consumption by humans has been deemed safe by the public health authority, it will still need to pass some regulatory tests before being released on the market. But this FDA approval is an essential first step.

To produce this cultured meat, the Californian company takes live cells from chickens, before growing them in a controlled laboratory. The result is farmed meat, that is, produced without any animal having been slaughtered.

A positive message for all players in the sector

With this clearance, the FDA is not content to give Upside Foods a first sesame seed. It also sent a positive message to all meat companies that it was ready to approve the sale of more lab-grown meats.

“The FDA is ready to work with other companies developing food and cultured animal cell manufacturing processes to ensure their foods are safe and legal under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act,” the press release reads.

It could also argue in favor of commercializing seafood, grown in a lab from marine life cells.

“Our goal is to support innovation in food technology while always keeping the production of safe foods a priority,” the FDA added.

A greener alternative to traditional agriculture?

Cultured meat production appears to be an alternative to traditional livestock farming, especially cattle, whose colossal impact on the environment is regularly identified. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), this agricultural activity is responsible for 14.5% of the greenhouse gas emissions emitted each year.

And if for some years many start-ups have launched into the niche (there were 70, according to data from the American NGO Good Food Institute for 2021), the environmental impact of meat from stem cells remains difficult to measure.

For the first time, a March 2021 study conducted by the Dutch company CE Delft, which specializes in the environment, and cited by The world, had attempted to quantify this impact using data from start-ups specializing in the production of fermented meat. However, this work concludes that the ecological footprint of cultured meat, when produced with a standard energy mix, is less important than that of beef. Instead, it surpasses that of poultry and pork, which emit less than beef.

Regulatory hurdles

But optimizing methods of producing lab-grown meat could be a game changer. Assuming the production of synthetic meat using exclusively carbon-free energy, the study shows that its environmental impact would be lower than that of all traditional meats, and not just beef.

Despite this, cellular agriculture still struggles to overcome the many regulatory hurdles that separate it from mass deployment. Singapore became the first country to authorize the sale of cultured meat products, at the end of 2020. Since then, no other state has taken the plunge. But the United States may follow.

According to The Guardianhowever, it will be necessary to wait a few months before the meat produced in the laboratory arrives in American supermarkets.

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