2 Bay Area companies get federal approval for sale of 'lab-grown' chicken

For the first time ever, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved two Bay Area based companies to offer "lab-grown" chicken.

Upside Foods of Emeryville and Good Meat of Alameda are the first two U.S. food production companies that are approved to produce and sell the meat that is made from cultivating animal cells.

Upside Foods founder and CEO Dr. Uma Valeti was a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic when he started experimenting with growing animal cells in a controlled environment. On Wednesday he stood in the demonstration kitchen at his firm’s 70,000 square foot production facility.

He said excitedly, "This is the biggest moment in the history of food and meat in the last hundred years. I think meat production will never be the same again."

He shared the company wants people to sign up for a chance to attend a food tasting event where they can try the chicken.

"It’s tender, juicy, smells, looks and tastes like chicken! It’s real meat and the U.S. government agrees with us, that our product is ready for the U.S. market," he said.

Unlike Beyond Meat and other alternative meat producers who use vegetable-based foods to resemble the taste of beef, this meat has its origin in chicken, not vegetables.

Valeti said benefits of the cultivated chicken, include eliminating the need to slaughter 70 billion chickens a year in order to deliver meat tables around the world.

Jessica Almy, the senior vice president of the Good Food Institute, said lab-grown meat is the food of the future.

"This is a way of making meat using less resources - so that everyone can eat," she said.

As a representative of the larger industry that advocates for food producers looking to future-proof food, Almy shared, "Today is really exciting because it marks the first day companies can start producing this chicken for sale for American consumers."

San Francisco-based Bar Crenn will partner with Upside Foods to serve meals using the cultivated chicken in the coming weeks. Another unnamed restaurant in Washington, D.C. has also committed to introducing the chicken to its customers.

Valeti says, his company will work with restaurants first to introduce the product. It will likely take about two years before consumers will see the product on grocery store shelves.

Alice Wertz is a freelance reporter for KTVU Fox 2 News. She can be reached at alice.wertz@fox.com twitter: @AlicesTake.