Upside Foods approved to sell cell-cultivated chicken in US; Shiok Meats pauses cell-cultivated seafood development

UPSIDE Foods chicken

SeafoodSource is closely following the plant-based and cell-based seafood alternatives market by compiling a regular round-up of updates from the sector.

-On 21 June, cell-cultivated meat and seafood company Upside Foods completed the U.S. federal regulatory approval process to allow it to market a product made of 99 percent cultivated chicken cells. The Berkeley, California U.S.A.-based company passed the U.S. Department of Agriculture's pre-market regulatory review process after it received a USDA Grant of Inspection (GOI) for its Engineering, Production, and Innovation Center (EPIC), and last week announcing it had received USDA approval on its labeling.

"I'm thrilled to share that cultivated meat will now be available for consumers in the U.S.," Upside Foods CEO and Founder Uma Valeti said in a release. "This approval will fundamentally change how meat makes it to our table. It's a giant step forward towards a more sustainable future – one that preserves choice and life. We are excited to launch with our signature, whole-textured Upside chicken and can't wait for consumers to taste the future."

Upside Foods is the first company in the U.S. to obtain a Grant of Inspection from the USDA for cultivated meat products. The company can now begin commercial production and sales, and has already announced its product will be sold at Bar Crenn in  San Francisco, California, U.S.A., in partnership with Michelin-star chef Dominique Crenn.

"We at Upside Foods have long championed the dual regulatory jurisdiction of FDA and USDA, starting with a historic partnership with the North American Meat Institute in 2018. Since then, our team has been working diligently with both agencies to bring our cultivated chicken to market," Upside Foods Vice President of Global and Scientific Affairs Eric Schulze said. "We are grateful for the FDA's and USDA's thoughtful and rigorous review processes, which have enabled us to start bringing safe, delicious, and high-quality cultivated meat products to market in the U.S."

In response to the announcement, renowned chef Andrew Gruel, who founded the Slapfish chain of seafood restaurants, voiced distaste for cultivated food in an Instagram post on 22 June.

“Lab Grown meat is a danger to both our food system and our economy. The energy required for production is outrageous – it can only survive on government subsidies. It’s full of additives and doesn’t mimic the healthful qualities of meat at all. Scary stuff,” Gruel wrote. 

- Singapore-based cultivated meat and seafood producer Shiok Meats announces a pause in its development of cell-cultured seafood in order to focus on cell-cultured beef. 

In a letter posted on LinkedIn, Shiok Meats CEO and Co-Founder Sandhya Sriram said the shift was the result of tightened finances. The start-up was founded in 2018, and, in 2019, showcased its first cell-cultured shrimp dumpling prototype after raising USD 1 million (EUR) in initial funding

Cellular agriculture of seafood has always been extremely novel, and it started off as a clean whiteboard. There was and is hardly any background information or research available on seafood and stem cells, especially that of crustaceans (shrimp, crab, lobster) and stem cells. Hence, at Shiok Meats we needed to do a lot more basic research compared to cultivated poultry or red meat start-ups,” Sriram said in the letter. Overall, we understood one thing – that we cannot commercialize or scale up crustaceans as fast as we thought we would.”

Sriram said she wasn't sure when her company would transition back to focusing on cell-cultured seafood, but said the plan is eventually to make it part of the Shiok Meats portfolio. 

“Seafood is still part of Shiok Meats, which is always our unique selling proposition, but to make sure we can survive and keep the company alive, it is important to launch at least one product first –  it red meat,” Sriram wrote.

Photo courtesy of UPSIDE Foods


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