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Good Meat slows its lab-grown chicken ambitions

Illustration of a chicken about to step on a red emergency button.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Lab-grown chicken needs more science and less costs to reach mass production levels, Eat Just CEO Josh Tetrick tells Axios.

Why it matters: The acknowledgment underscores the challenges ahead for companies making cultivated protein.

Catch up fast: Eat Just and its chicken subsidiary, Good Meat, have raised close to $1 billion to make lab-grown chicken, as well as plant-based egg products.

  • They're producing small amounts of the cultivated chicken for periodic restaurant partnerships in Singapore and the U.S.

The idea is to free animals from slaughterhouses and, in turn, eliminate the air and water pollution from livestock.

The latest: The company froze its plans for mass production, saying the factory price tag needs to come down by 50% or more, Tetrick says.

  • Reducing production costs "will require new thinking in how these facilities are built," Tetrick tells Axios. "We have not solved for that."

That's a sharp reversal from 2022, when Eat Just and Good Meat said they were evaluating U.S. sites to make up to 30 million pounds of lab-grown chicken per year.

  • Just last year, they won U.S. approval to begin selling lab-grown chicken to restaurants.

Yes, but: Bioreactor supplier ABEC sued Eat Just last year for more than $100 million in alleged unpaid invoices and other owed payments.

Meanwhile, projected costs for the company's U.S. factory spiraled past $500 million.

  • Good Meat is now sticking with low levels of production, including a modest expansion in Singapore, until it can build a plant for less than $200 million.

"I can't emphasize enough just how small the volumes are," Tetrick says.

Our thought bubble: Good Meat is betting on an R&D breakthrough to become more than just a venture-backed menu special.

What we're watching: Eat Just has previously considered spinning off Good Meat.

  • The plant-based egg company is aiming to break even as soon as this year — and, for now, plans to subsidize Good Meat.
  • "Just Egg is able to generate positive margin dollars, those positive margin dollars can fund some of Good Meat," says Tetrick.

Editor's note: This article was updated to clarify that the $1 billion raised by Eat Just and Good Meat includes funding for plant-based egg products.

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