Cultured meat on store shelves this year? It’s unlikely.

With that in mind, Upside’s brand evolution makes sense: While early-phase startups mostly want to impress potential investors with their tech, later-phase companies want to entice the public, and that pivot can be reflected in their names. This is, after all, Upside’s second rebrand—it was originally founded as Crevi, derived from the Latin word for “origin.” That choice may have projected academic sophistication to funders, but it doesn’t exactly excite the appetite (or pull at the heartstrings). Perfect Day, a cell-cultured dairy company, is another example. Its original name? Muufri. 

But as cell-cultured meat companies strike a more public-facing stance, an odd dynamic is emerging. After years of promises and delays, companies like Upside and Eat Just are finally poised to break into the U.S. market—where federal regulatory agencies appear to be moving at a much more deliberate pace. 

It doesn’t matter how sophisticated their product is, or how much investor pressure they face, or how much money they put into marketing: Companies can’t sell cultured meat in the U.S. without permission from the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA FSIS). As of this writing, no such approvals have been given. In fact, they can’t be given—the regulatory structure that would govern cultured meat is still being worked out.

Here’s what we know. The two federal agencies that oversee food production and marketing, USDA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), have agreed to jointly regulate cultured meat. In a March 2019 memorandum of understanding, the agencies staked out their territory: FDA, which also presides over biotechnology, will regulate the collection and growth of cultured cells. USDA, which regulates meat production, will oversee things once those cells are harvested—including any further processing of those cells into retail-ready products, as well as labeling considerations.  


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