Fact Check: 'Lab Grown' Chicken Approved By Regulators Is NOT 'Grown From Human Cells'

Fact Check

  • by: Lead Stories Staff
Fact Check: 'Lab Grown' Chicken Approved By Regulators Is NOT 'Grown From Human Cells' Chicken Cells

Is "lab grown" chicken that was approved by U.S. regulators "grown from human cells"? No, that's not true: Neither of the companies that received regulatory approval to sell cell-cultivated meat in the U.S. use human cells in their products. Additionally, Lead Stories did not find evidence that human cells were used to test the safety of the cell-cultivated chicken products.

The claim appeared in a post (archived here) on Facebook on July 31, 2023. The post read:

The lab grown 'chicken' that was recently approved to be sold at restaurants is actually grown from human cells. Research it.

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

lab grown chicken human cells.png

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Tue Aug 14:16:58 2023 UTC)

Approval process of cell-cultivated chicken

The claim's reference to "lab grown" chicken seems to be related to the premarket consultation approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and approval from the Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) that cleared the way for two companies -- Good Meat, a subsidiary of the company Eat Just, and Upside Foods -- to sell their products in the U.S. In 2019, the FDA and the USDA-FSIS announced a formal agreement to oversee human food produced from animal cell technology. According to the FDA's human food made with cultured cells inventory, it gave premarket approval to Upside Foods in November 2022 and Good Meat in March 2023. The USDA-FSIS approval was granted to Upside Foods and Good Meat in June 2023.

Cell-cultivated chicken is produced from chicken cell line

It's unclear what source -- if any -- the user who posted the claim based the statement "lab grown" chicken is "grown from human cells," on, as no source is cited in the post. Lead Stories did not find any evidence that Good Meat or Upside Foods use human cells in their cell-cultivated chicken. We previously published a fact check debunking the idea that cell-cultivated meat is cultivated from precancerous and cancerous animal cells. In that fact check, we explained that the cell material used for these products is isolated from adult chickens or chicken eggs and undergoes a process that allows the cells to replicate. It is then formed into sheets that can be manipulated into products that are similar to conventional poultry products.

Lead Stories also did not find any evidence that Good Meat or Upside Foods used human cells for any safety testing of their products. The premarket consultation submissions from Good Meat and Upside Foods do not indicate that either of the companies tested the safety of the cell material used in their cell-cultivated meat with human cells. The formal agreement between the FDA and the USDA-FSIS also does not describe any involvement of human cells in the safety testing of animal cell technology.

In an email sent to Lead Stories on August 1, 2023, Brooke Whitney, communications lead for Upside Foods, told us that the claim is false. She said:

Cultivated meat is produced using animal cells. For the case of our cultivated chicken, our product is grown directly from chicken cells.

On August 1, 2023, Carrie Kabat, consumer communications director of Eat Just, sent an email to Lead Stories also confirming that the claim is false. She told us about Good Meat's cell-cultivated meat development process in detail:

GOOD Meat's first type of cultivated meat is chicken, which is what we recently won regulatory approval to sell commercially in the U.S. Our research team started off by identifying the best chicken cells to produce cultivated meat. We use chicken fibroblasts and established cell banks as the starting point for every production run.

These cells are then fed a nutrient-rich broth that includes amino acids, carbohydrates, minerals, fats and vitamins which are the same types of nutrients animals need to grow. The entire process takes place in a safe and controlled environment that looks like a beer brewery. Our meat is made in a USDA-approved food manufacturing facility similar to many other facilities that make various types of food we enjoy every day.

Other Lead Stories fact checks

In addition to our fact check refuting the claim that "lab-grown" meat is cultivated from precancerous and cancerous cells, Lead Stories also debunked the claim that "lab-grown" meat was approved by U.S. regulators without any labeling requirements.

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