UPSIDE Foods has made history yet again. The first company ever to create cultivated meatballs, chicken, and duck now has the first-ever approvals from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Department of Agriculture (USDA) to sell its chicken commercially. UPSIDE chicken debuted August 4, 2023 at San Francisco’s Bar Crenn in partnership with three-Michelin-star chef Dominique Crenn.
So, when will UPSIDE chicken be available at grocery stores and restaurants, not just at a $150 six-course meal?
Cultivated meat still has some hurdles to clear. At the SOSV Climate Tech Summit (Sept 26-27 / free & virtual / register now), UPSIDE Foods founder and CEO Dr. Uma Valeti, MD will discuss the state of cultivated meat with Po Bronson, Managing Director of IndieBio and General Partner at SOSV.
Cultivated meat is an important climate technology because livestock account for 10 to 20% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Livestock also use almost 80% of the world’s agricultural land (lots and lots of feed…), consume 10% of annually available fresh water, and incentivize deforestation in places like the Amazon. Cultivated meat, on the other hand, is grown in bioreactors and could eliminate that collateral climate damage. The cells are nourished with a culture medium rich in oxygen, amino acids, glucose, vitamins, salts, and proteins, all of which can be sourced from plants and other clean sources.
Uma’s journey to cultivated meat started during his upbringing in India, where he witnessed the mass slaughter of animals on several occasions and decided to give up meat. Later, as a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic experimenting with cardiac stem cells, Uma realized he could stem the slaughter by growing animal tissues in bioreactors. He left medicine to prove that tasty, cultivated meat, indistinguishable from the animal-born variety, was possible.
With SOSV’s IndieBio as his first backer, Uma produced the world’s first cultivated meat at IndieBio’s office in San Francisco. UPSIDE has gone on to raise over $600M in funding from a mix of institutional, individual, and strategic investors that include Temasek, Abu Dhabi Growth Fund (ADG), John Doerr, Bill Gates, Cargill, and Tyson Foods. In 2022, UPSIDE Foods was the subject of Meat the Future, an award-winning documentary about the quest for cultured meat, narrated by Jane Goodall.
The Good Food Institute, a nonprofit think tank, tracks approximately 100 cultivated meat companies worldwide. The biggest hurdle for the category is cost—cultivated meats remain significantly more expensive than the government-subsidized variety enjoyed in the U.S. and elsewhere. Other challenges include texture and taste (particularly for premium cuts of meat) and public perception.
What will it take for cultured meat to win in the $1.4 trillion global meat market?
Dr. Uma Valeti
Dr. Uma Valeti is the CEO and Founder of UPSIDE Foods, the world’s leading cultivated meat company. UPSIDE Foods was the first company focused on growing meat directly from animal cells and has led the industry ever since. Since 2015, UPSIDE Foods has achieved numerous industry-defining milestones, including being the first company to produce multiple species of cultivated meat (beef, chicken and duck), to partner with the existing meat industry, and to sell a cultivated meat product in the United States. UPSIDE Foods has raised over $600 million from a diverse coalition of investors including Richard Branson, John Mackey, Bill Gates, Temasek, ADG, Softbank, Threshold, Baillie Gifford, Norwest, Cargill, Tyson Foods and Whole Foods. Uma’s vision is to enable people around the world to eat the meat they love, while transforming the food system to become more sustainable and humane. Uma has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the Aspen Ideas Festival and SXSW. In 2019 he was named a “Global Thinker of the Decade” by Foreign Policy magazine. Uma is a Mayo Clinic-trained cardiologist and an adjunct professor in Cardiovascular Medicine at Stanford University.
Po Bronson is passionate about reconceptualizing complex challenges into more elegant forms, to broaden understanding and highlight priorities. He’s been at IndieBio SF since 2018. Po is a longtime science journalist honored with nine national awards, and author of seven bestselling books that are available in 28 languages worldwide. His work has been cited in 185 academic journals and 503 books. His background is in Economics. He learned finance at Credit Suisse and consulting at a division of Arthur Andersen. Prior to IndieBio he spent four years as a Futurist with Attention Span Media, consulting corporate innovation efforts for globally-recognized brands. Most recently, Po is the author of Decoding the World: A Roadmap for the Questioner, published by Twelve Books, a division of the Hachette Publishing Group.