The ‘ick’ of chicken on the menuThe first day of summer 2023 ushered in graduation parties, summer vacation and the sales approval of “lab-grown,” cell-cultivated vat chicken. How apropos, as grilling season begins in earnest.

Whether you use white or barbecue sauce, it might be a good idea to slather the climate-friendly “Franken-meat” with such a condiment. It kinda puts a new spin on “finger-licking good!”

Since Thanksgiving 2022, California-based Upside Foods (formerly Memphis Meats) and the Good Meat Company have been out touting FDA and USDA-FSIS questionable approval steps. This latest announcement, which gives the green light on the blue plate special by the FDA, is no real surprise. It’s anyone’s guess if this approval will open the floodgates of chicken cell soup by the more than 150 companies focusing on meat from cells. Scientists say the cultured chicken, pork, beef, lamb and fish business model has the biggest impact on the environment.

“Instead of all of that land and all of that water that’s used to feed all of these animals that are slaughtered, we can do it in a different way,” said Josh Tetrick, co-founder and CEO of Eat Just, which operates Good Meat.

“This approval will fundamentally change how meat makes it to our table,” Upside Foods founder and CEO Uma Valeti said in a statement. “It’s a giant step forward towards a more sustainable future – one that preserves choice and life.”

The vat meat will be rolled out in high-end markets around the country prepared by Michelin-starred restaurateurs with lots of butter and white wine to cover up the brining process of cells growing in stainless steel tanks with a broth-like concoction of amino acids, fatty acids, sugars, salts, vitamins and all the other elements cells need to grow. Inside the tanks, called cultivators, the cells grow quickly and muscle and connective tissue cells grow together, forming large sheets. Then the gourmet sheets of poultry cells can be formed into chicken-like shapes, using something like Grandma’s cookie cutter – yummy.

Land stewardship and animal care vs. science experiments – what will consumers want? Photo by Troy Bishopp

“Don’t look for this novel meat in U.S. grocery stores anytime soon, however. Cultivated chicken is much more expensive than meat from whole, farmed birds and cannot yet be produced on the scale of traditional meat,” said Ricardo San Martin, director of the Alt:Meat Lab at University of California-Berkeley.

Neither Upside nor Good Meat officials would reveal the price of a single chicken cell cutlet. Eventually, the price is expected to mirror high-end organic chicken, which sells for up to $20/lb. San Martin said he’s concerned that cultivated meat may wind up being an alternative to traditional meat for rich people, but will do little for the environment if it remains a niche product.

“If some affluent people want to eat this instead of a whole farm-raised chicken, it’s good,” he said. “Will that mean you will feed chicken to poor people? I honestly don’t see it.”

This summer cell season is shaping up to propel these “cultured” foods into the America diet. At press time, Omeat said it has a new beef burger for your grill that’s “real, lip-smacking meat, grown from cells, outside the animal. No sacrifice required” (

The company and its financial backers are using words like “regenerative,” “holistic,” “sustainable” and “carbon-negative” to sell out American beef farmers and suggest the traditions and land stewardship of local family farms are not as important as “tissue cultivators.”

These frequent announcements made need some well-done grilling scrutiny over summer vacation.

by Troy Bishopp