Near the end of last year, Upside Foods Inc. opened a meat processing plant like no other. Inside the $50 million facility, just outside Berkeley, Calif., workers cultivate small clumps of animal cells in large vats over two weeks, slowly growing them into chicken breasts and steaks. No animal is slaughtered at any point in the process—the flesh is manufactured. At 53,000 square feet, the factory is the largest ever dedicated to so-called cultivated meat; the company hopes consumers will be able to buy the meat it makes sometime in 2022.
Unlike plant-based meat alternatives that have been on the market for years, cultivated meat is real meat. The techniques used to grow it are well developed; the problem for startups such as Upside is producing the meat in large quantities while achieving the smell, texture, and mouthfeel diners expect.