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  • This week the FDA said that meat grown in a lab met major safety requirements.
  • Lab-grown meat has gained interest in recent years as food manufacturers try to meet the increasing demand of the growing population.
  • Animal cells are taken from the tissue of an animal and placed in a tightly-controlled lab environment that helps them multiply and grow.

We may soon be eating meat that’s grown from animal cells in a laboratory.

In an announcement published Wednesday, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated that UPSIDE Foods, a food manufacturer that creates animal meat from cells, met all of the agency’s safety requirements.

UPSIDE Foods will need to pass inspection from the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) before the lab-grown meat heads to market.

The meat is produced by extracting cells from animals — in this case, poultry — that are then cultivated in a laboratory and grown into food.

Lab-grown meat has gained interest in recent years as food manufacturers try to meet the increasing demand of the growing population.

According to Ian Smith, a research professor at University of California Irvine, Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, lab-grown meat production is still in the early stages and there are many more hurdles that need to be addressed in order to bring an economically-viable product to market.

“This is exciting for the field. The FDA and USDA are collectively the regulatory authorities that are providing oversight to this particular market so the FDA declaring they have no safety concerns is a big stride forward,” Smith told Healthline.

After the animal cells are taken from the tissue of an animal, the cells are placed in a tightly-controlled lab environment that helps them multiply and grow.

As the cells multiply, they differentiate into various cell types, like muscle, fat, or connective tissue cells.

Once the cells have differentiated into muscle, fat, or tissue, they are harvested and prepared with typical food packaging and processing methods, according to the FDA.

The FDA states that human food made from cultured animal cells must meet the same safety requirements as other foods.

Now that UPSIDE Foods has met those safety requirements, the manufacturer is one step closer to beginning commercial production.

UPSIDE will work with the USDA to obtain a grant of inspection and label approval.

“This landmark regulatory decision means the FDA accepts our safety conclusion, and UPSIDE’s cultivated chicken will be available following USDA inspection and label approval,” an UPSIDE Foods spokesperson told Healthline.

Dr. Dana Ellis Hunnes, a senior clinical dietitian at UCLA medical center, assistant professor at UCLA Fielding school of public health, and author of Recipe for Survival, expect that it will be a while before lab-grown meat is scalable and affordable for the average person.

“With that said, it is moving in a better direction from a welfare, environmental standpoint, and perhaps even nutritional standpoint if you can add to the ‘meat’ whatever nutritional profile you want,” Hunnes told Healthline.

Scientists are still learning about how the nutritional profile of lab-grown meat compares to regular meat.

Hunnes says that lab-grown meat will likely have the same level of amino acids as conventional meat, however, there may be differences in the overall composition of the meat.

There’s a chance lab-grown meat may contain lower levels of iron, zinc, and B12, she added.

According to UPSIDE’s spokesperson, their cultivated chicken contains fewer calories and less fat than conventionally-produced chicken.

“Ultimately our goal is to offer consumers meat with improved nutrient profiles, but we won’t be there immediately,” the UPSIDE Foods spokesperson said.

Advocates also claim that there’s a lower risk that the meat will carry pathogens like E. coli, Salmonella or Campylobacter since the cells are closely monitored in a lab.

Furthermore, because the meat isn’t sourced from animals that are packed close together in incubators, there’s less opportunity for infectious diseases to impact the meat.

Food manufacturers will be able to better control what is in the meat, says Smith.

“There is no need for antibiotic use in lab-grown meat because there is no contamination from the intestinal pathogens of other animals, so in that sense, it would be a little better,” Hunnes said.

That said, it’s too soon to know if and how lab-grown meat might impact our health. Some scientists say no environment is ever perfectly controlled, even in a lab, and “unexpected biological mechanisms” may occur.

The main advantage to lab-grown meat is that it will cut back on the use of greenhouse gasses by reducing land use, water use, and emissions.

“From an environmental standpoint, this will be far better for the environment — once it is fully scaled up — than raising 100 million or so cattle each year for slaughter,” Hunnes said.

UPSIDE Foods, a manufacturer that produces animal meat from cells in a lab, meets all of the FDA’s safety requirements and is one step closer to bringing lab-grown meat to market. Interest in lab-grown meat has increased as food manufacturers develop innovative solutions to meet the demands of the growing human population. It’s unclear how lab-grown meat stacks up to conventionally-produced meat, but health experts expect the nutritional profile to be similar.