FDA Says Lab-Grown Meat Is Safe to Eat—But Is It Healthy?

A concept image of ground meat that has a label stating it was grown in a lab.


Key Takeaways

  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently deemed meat that is grown using animal cells as being safe for human consumption.
  • While these alternatives to traditionally-produced animal meats are not yet available for consumers, the FDA’s decision is a key step in the process.
  • Lab-grown options may offer similar nutritional benefits, but a smaller environmental impact compared to conventionally-produced animal protein.

While you can’t get it at the deli in the U.S. right now, lab-grown meat is one step closer to being a reality. In November 2022, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled that cultivated meat is “safe for human consumption.”

For people who want to avoid conventionally-processed meat but don’t necessarily want to be meat-free, the emerging science of cultivated meat could be the sweet spot. The meat can be grown in a lab using just a few cells taken from an animal.

Here’s what experts say about the future of cultivated, or “lab-grown” meat.

What Is Lab-Grown Meat?

When you eat steak, you are eating the muscle of a cow. When you eat chicken thighs, you’re literally eating the muscle (and maybe the skin) of a chicken.

When they were alive and being raised for meat, those animals likely used up a lot of water, land, and food. Some animals also have other negative effects on the environment as well.

Cultivated meat is different. It’s not made by slaughtering an animal and butchering it into different cuts of meat. Instead, it’s made using cells taken from a living animal that can be grown into meat in a lab.

The cells are housed in a medium that contains the nutrients that are needed to grow the meat. The cells are kept in an environment that maintains the right temperature and oxygen level for them to multiply. Through this process, tissue forms that can be harvested once it has grown big enough.

While the end result looks like a raw piece of chicken, duck, or other meat you’d get by slaughtering and butchering, it only needed a small number of cells from a still-alive animal to be made.

There’s also only so much meat you can get from one animal. The cells, on the other hand, can be used again to make more servings.

Is Cultivated Meat Vegan?

Lab-grown meat comes from muscle cells taken from living animals—therefore, it’s not “meatless” meat like plant-based proteins are.

For people who are concerned about animal welfare, cultured meat could be appealing because an animal does not have to be slaughtered to get the cells needed to grow the meat. That said, if someone does not want any foods that come from an animal in any way, cultivated meat would not fit into their eating preferences.

Is Lab-Grown Meat Safe to Eat?

On November 16, the FDA ruled that cultivated meat is safe for human consumption.

To be clear, the agency is not endorsing or recommending that people eat cultured meat. Rather, the FDA used the available evidence to determine that cultivated meat is safe to be sold to consumers.

As of the end of November 2022, these meat products are not yet available commercially.

What Are The Benefits of Eating Lab-Grown Meat?

There are benefits to making meat—especially lean meat—part of a balanced diet. Chicken, beef, and fish contain high-quality complete protein and many micronutrients (such as vitamin B12, iron, and choline). Some meats also contain key fatty acids.

Lab-grown meat might look and even taste similar to its animal-based counterparts, but how will it stack up nutritionally?


Brooke Whitney, a Senior Communications Associate at UPSIDE Foods, told Verywell that the nutrition profile of each cultivated meat “will depend on the specific product and company” that produces it.

According to Whitney, UPSIDE Foods’ chicken “has fewer calories and lower fat than an average piece of conventionally-produced chicken.” Ultimately, Whitney said the company’s “goal is to offer consumers meat with improved nutrient profiles.”

While there’s a big focus on how cultured meat will be similar to traditionally-made meat, there could also be some appealing differences.

For example, Melissa Mitri, MS, RD, a registered dietitian and the owner of Melissa Mitri Nutrition, told Verywell that “lab-grown meat would likely contain fewer antibiotics and additives,” than meat that’s been conventionally produced.


One of the most widely touted benefits of cultivated meat is that making it would not have the same environmental impact as the production of traditional meat.

Raising cattle, chicken, pigs, and other animals, then using that meat as food, takes a toll on the environment.

Studies have suggested that cutting back on our meat consumption could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and their considerable effect on global warming and climate change.

According to the UPSIDE website, cultivated meat is estimated to use 77% less water and 62% less land than conventionally raised meat.

Cultivated meat would also spare many animal lives, as a lot of meat can be made from just a small number of cells taken from a living animal. In the long run, that could also lead to a smaller carbon footprint.

The Meat of the Future?

You can’t grill up a lab-grown steak in the U.S. yet, but cultured meat is already available to consumers in other parts of the world.

In 2020, Singapore became the first country to approve the sale of lab-grown meat products (specifically, Good Meat chicken nuggets made by the U.S.-based company Eat Just).

Other countries might be soon to follow, as the global list of companies working on cultivated meat is growing (for example Spain’s Biotech Foods and the United Kingdom’s Higher Steaks).

It all sounds promising, but there’s no guarantee that cultured meat will be on par nutritionally or have a significantly positive effect on the environment.

“A recent 2020 study showed that more long-term research is needed to determine the true environmental footprint of lab meat production and if it is truly a sustainable alternative to conventional meat,” Mitri said.

While the technology necessary to bring lab-grown meat to your plate is there and the FDA’s input was a step forward in the regulation process, we still have a lot to learn.

As Mitri said, “more research is still needed on the pros and cons [of cultivated meat], it may be the meat of the future. If the nutritional quality can remain intact and it is seen to be a sustainable alternative long-term, it may become in demand—especially for those who support animal rights.”

What This Means For You

Cultivated meat might be appealing if you’re looking for an alternative to traditionally-produced animal meat. You can’t buy “lab-grown” meat yet, but we might be one step closer to seeing it in grocery stores now that the FDA has said it’s safe for human consumption.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. The Humane League. What is lab-grown meat, and how is cultured meat made?.

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  5. UPSIDE Foods. Our impact.

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