Cultured Meat: Once a Theory, Now a Reality Upside Foods Gets FDA’s Nod on Cultivated Meat


Cultivated Meat

Cultivated meat can replicate conventional meat's texture, taste, nutritional composition, appearance, and smell. It is also known as cultured meat and is considered real animal meat, including organ meats and seafood produced by directly cultivating animal cells. This production method removes the need to raise farm animals for foodstuff. Cultivated meat is prepared of the same cell types arranged in a similar structure as animal tissues, reproducing conventional meat's nutritional and sensory profiles.

A sample of cells is taken from an organism, such as a cow, chicken, or pig, and is grown in the bioreactor, providing the necessary nutrients and growth conditions for the cells to replicate.

Production Process of Cultivated Meat

The manufacturing process of cultivated meat starts with acquiring stem cells from an animal. These cells are later grown in bioreactors at high volumes and densities. Related to what happens inside an animal's body, the cells are served with an oxygen-rich cell culture medium made up of essential nutrients such as glucose, amino acids, vitamins, and inorganic salts and complemented with proteins and other growth factors.

Variations in the medium composition, often in tandem with signs from a supporting structure, produce immature cells to distinguish into the fat, skeletal muscle, and connective tissues that make up meat. The segregated cells are harvested, prepared, and are packed into final products. This procedure is projected to take around 2-8 weeks, depending on the kind of meat is cultured.

Why Eat Cultivated Meat?

Cultivated meat is expected to have a variety of benefits compared to conventional animal agriculture owing to its more efficient production process. Potential life cycle assessments specify that cultivated meat will use considerably fewer water and land, release less greenhouse gases, and lessen agriculture-related pollution and eutrophication.

As per a report published in 2020 by Nature Food, commercial production is likely to occur entirely without antibiotics and is expected to result in fewer incidences of foodborne illnesses because of the dearth of exposure risk from enteric pathogens. In the coming years, cultivated meat along with other alternate proteins are anticipated to take major market share from the $1.7 trillion conventional seafood and meat industry. This shift will alleviate agriculture-related biodiversity loss, deforestation, zoonotic disease outbreaks, antibiotic resistance, and industrialized animal butchery. In addition, it is found that cultivated meat might:

  • Cut the climate impact of meat by up to 92%
  • Lessen air pollution by up to 93%
  • Use up to 95% less land
  • Use up to 78% less water

When Can the Consumers Expect Cultivated Meat Make into the Market?

From mid-2020, the numerous leading cultivated meat companies are transitioning to pilot-scale facilities that will manufacture the first commercialized products following regulatory approval. The Singapore Food Agency approved the world's first cultivated meat product for sale in December 2020. Furthermore, scaling production to expressively larger facilities than what currently exists will involve solving a wide range of complex challenges such as cell lines, bioprocess design, cell culture media, and scaffolding.

By solving these challenges and impelling the cultivated meat industry into development will require funding from both the private and public sectors. Research centers, new courses and training programs for scientists, as well as policy work and regulatory action will fast-track progress.

This field will also need various new companies, contributions from existing life science companies, and openness to collaboration from existing cultivated meat companies. Businesspeople, scientists and other contributors along the value chain will need to fill several new career opportunities.

When Can the Consumers Expect Cultivated Meat Make into the Market?

Although there has never been more demand for meat, the current production method is unsustainable and unethical to some. So, scientists all over the world are discovering ways to grow meat and fish in their laboratories without using farms or animals. It is imperative that this revolution occurs. An additional 2 billion people are anticipated on the planet by 2050. The demand for meat is anticipated to increase by 70%, placing a tremendous strain on scarce resources such as land and water. Climate change will then result from this. Today, livestock farming is a major contributor to deforestation and accounts for 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

If meat could be generated in laboratories rather than on farms, it might offer a substitute for conventionally produced meat and lessen the environmental impact of meat production. Cultured meat may potentially benefit human health by lowering or eliminating the usage of antibiotics and hormones. About 60 startups worldwide are working to develop and enhance the cultured meat manufacturing method to produce various types of meat and fish. Most of them are developing their unique cells, which call for customized growth media and cellular scaffolding. Additionally, they are all aiming to reduce costs while increasing production.

Historic Milestone: FDA Approves UPSIDE's Cultivated Meat

In October 2021, UPSIDE submitted a review of its safety assessment pertaining to the production of cell-cultured meat as a part of pre-consultation. In November 2022, UPSIDE became the first company to receive FDA approval to cultivate meat products. This is a major breakthrough for the cell-cultured meat industry. However, the FDA stated that pre-consultation is not an approval process but agrees with UPSIDE's safety process for its cultured products. A European non-profit organization that works towards promoting sustainable proteins, including cultivated meat, stated this as a, "Historic Milestone".

"Based on the information UPSIDE has provided to the FDA, as well as other information available to the agency, we did not identify a basis for concluding that the production process as described in CCC 000002 would be expected to result in food that bears or contains any substance or microorganism that would adulterate the food," the FDA stated in its response letter to UPSIDE. The food item's assigned name, together with any associated production procedures, was CCC 000002. FDA further stated, "We don't have any disagreements with UPSIDE's assessment that foods made from or containing cultured chicken cell material that were created using the procedure described in CCC 000002 are as safe as those made using other processes at this time."

Following the declaration, UPSIDE can now move on to the regular approvals procedure followed by traditional chicken products, ensuring the safe production and handling of its farmed chicken. Additionally, the production facility will need a grant of inspection from the US Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS), and the finished product will need a mark of inspection from the USDA-FSIS before it can be sold in the US.

But what about the price when UPSIDE's product has now been deemed safe for consumption? On this, UPSIDE has stated that, "Initially the product will be sold at premium pricing. However, as scaling goes by around the word, a price parity between cultured meat products and traditional meat products will be achieved as the ultimate aim is to make the product more affordable than conventionally-produced meat."

This recent announcement will have a broader impact on the alternative protein market on a global scale. Moreover, a recent FDA's research indicated that the growth of alternative protein market will exponentially rise in the late 2020s and early 2030s. And not just that, cultured meat will emerge as the dominating segment in this market by 2035.

Conclusion

Researchers have scientifically proven that cultivating meat would bring numerous benefits to society. From reducing the environmental impact to respecting the sentiments of communities opposing animal slaughter for food, the FDA's nod to UPSIDE's meat-cultivating process is a step toward achieving sustainability goals. Cultivating meat would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 96% via less water, land use, and energy. Over the next few decades, the alternate proteins and cultivated meat market is forecasted to grab a significant market share, reaching from the $1.7 trillion conventional meat and seafood industry. As indicated by researchers, this shift would mitigate agriculture-related deforestation, biodiversity loss, zoonotic disease outbreaks, industrialized animal slaughter, and biodiversity loss.

This approval is a blueprint that the FDA will continue to collaborate with the meat cultivating companies to scale up the industry globally. The FDA is implying that it is channeling its efforts toward promoting cultured animal cell food and production processes to promote food safety under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.


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