Briefing: Upside Foods’ cultivated chicken gets FDA approval

The company still needs regulatory approval from the USDA to sell its products but it is now one step closer to realizing that goal.

Upside Foods has become the first cell-cultured meat company in the US to receive a ‘No Questions’ letter from the Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA’s letter signals that it has accepted Upside’s conclusion that its cultivated chicken product is safe to eat.

The FDA released a memo detailing its review of the data and information provided by Upside, as well as an extended document detailing the production process from the company’s chicken filet product.

The California-based company still needs approval from the USDA before it can sell its products to consumers, but the development brings it closer to that goal than any US cell-cultured meat start-up to date.

Big backing from government and finance

From a base of $60 million raised across the cell-cultured meat space in 2019, total funding increased more than sixfold to finish at $366 million in 2020. By the end of last year, the figure shot up by more than $1 billion to hit $1.38 billion in 2021, according to the Good Food Institute.

In February, Upside’s $400 million Series C became the biggest funding round the industry has produced to date, overtaking Israeli start-up Future Meat’s $347 million Series B secured in December 2021.

Upside’s investors include Bill Gates, Cargill, Softbank, Temasek and the Abu Dhabi Growth Fund, among several other blue chip investors and celebrity personalities.

Governments have also made moves throughout this year to facilitate the growth of domestic cell-cultured meat industries and have allocated grants to stimulate their industries.

China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs announced that cultivated meat and “future foods” would be part of its five-year agricultural plan for the first time in February.

In April, the Netherlands pledged to invest an initial €60 million to support the formation of a cellular agriculture industry in the country, while the Biden administration issued an executive order in September to advance biotechnology and biomanufacturing in the country.