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Chef Zach Tyndall prepares Good Meat's cultivated chicken at the Eat Just office in Alameda, Calif., on June 14, 2023. (AP) Chef Zach Tyndall prepares Good Meat's cultivated chicken at the Eat Just office in Alameda, Calif., on June 14, 2023. (AP)

Chef Zach Tyndall prepares Good Meat's cultivated chicken at the Eat Just office in Alameda, Calif., on June 14, 2023. (AP)

Jeff Cercone
By Jeff Cercone August 4, 2023

Major U.S. fast-food chains are not selling lab-grown meat

If Your Time is short

  • Lab-grown meat, or cell-cultivated meat, creates real meat from animal cells. Two companies, Good Meat and Upside Foods, in June received U.S. government approval to sell lab-grown chicken to consumers.

  • Each company has made the chicken available only at one restaurant, neither of which is part of a major fast-food chain.

Lab-grown meat — cultivated from cells — has been cooking for a while, but the U.S. government only recently gave its approval to sell it in this country.

Supporters say growing meat from cells, rather than slaughtering animals, is beneficial not only for animals but also for the environment.

The lab-grown product has sparked numerous social media claims, including one that said several fast-food chains in the U.S. have long been serving it to unsuspecting customers.

"I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Lab-grown meat is here already," a woman said in a July 5 Instagram video. "A lot of your chain-food restaurants have been using it for years — KFC, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, Moe’s … like I even have to say, McDonald’s."

This Instagram post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

The video made several other unsupported claims, but for this fact-check, we’ll focus on the lab-grown meat served at U.S. fast-food chains. 

In the U.S., only two companies have been granted permission to sell lab-grown meat and neither sells its products to any of the chains mentioned in the Instagram video.

Upside Foods and Good Meat each announced June 21 they had received final permission from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to offer cultivated chicken products to restaurants and grocery stores. 

Both companies began by putting it on the menu at restaurants owned by famous chefs.

The U.S. is now the second country to allow cultivated meat to be sold to consumers. Good Meat has been selling its products in Singapore since 2020. 

Good Meat served its chicken to the U.S. general public for the first time July 31 at China Chilcano, a Washington, D.C.-based restaurant owned by chef José Andrés, who is on Good Meat’s board of directors. The chicken also was served there at two invitation-only dinners for VIP and media earlier in July. Diners can make reservations for a cultivated chicken tasting menu for $70 per person.

Featured Fact-check

Carrie Kabat, spokesperson for Good Meat, called the claim that lab-cultivated meat is being sold at U.S. fast-food chains "completely false."

"Up until this summer, Good Meat’s cultivated meat had only been available in the U.S. for private tastings at our headquarters in the Bay Area," Kabat said. "Currently, the only place American consumers can order and enjoy our cultivated chicken is at China Chilcano."

That is likely to change as the company scales-up commercial production, Kabat said, adding that it hopes to sell its chicken at more restaurants and eventually in stores. A team is also working on cultivated beef, but no timeline has been announced for its launch, she said.

Upside Foods did not return our request for comment, but the company said June 27 on its social media channels that it made its first sale to Bar Crenn restaurant in San Francisco. It’s the first poultry sold at the restaurant since Chef Dominique Crenn made it a meat-free establishment in 2019, according to Food & Wine.

Upside Foods said on its website that it has also made cultivated beef meatballs and duck, but chicken is its first product to market. It has not announced any other partnerships with restaurants on its website or social media channels.

None of the fast-food chains’ menus mention lab-grown meat, though several offer plant-based options that mimic meat. That’s not the same as meat grown from animal cells.

We contacted fast-food chains mentioned in the Instagram video to ask if they sell lab-grown meat, and these were the replies: 

  • McDonald’s press team referred us to a company website explaining what’s in its burgers — nothing but 100% North American beef. 

  • A Wendy’s spokesperson said the chain serves "fresh, never-frozen, North American beef" and that it sources its beef, pork, chicken, eggs and dairy from suppliers who meet quality, safety and animal welfare standards. 

  • Meredith Krones, a spokesperson for KFC Global, said that in 2020, KFC Russia made an announcement about cell-cultured meat, but that it was a "one-time experiment and not part of a long-term strategy." Yum Brands, the parent company of KFC, sold KFC Russia to Smart Service Ltd., a local operator, in April 2023, Krones said. Those restaurants will be rebranded as Rostik’s, according to a press release.

Our ruling

An Instagram post claimed that "a lot of your chain-food restaurants" have been selling lab-grown meat to customers for years. 

Only two companies have been approved in the U.S. to sell lab-grown, or cell-cultivated meat. Neither have sold the meat to fast-food chains. None of the chains mentioned in the post have said they are selling the products. 

We rate the claim False. 

Our Sources

Carrie Kabat, spokesperson for Good Meat, email exchange, Aug. 4, 2023

Good Meat, Good Meat Cultivated Chicken Tasting Menu Experience, accessed Aug. 4, 2023

Good Meat, Good Meat Gets Full Approval in the U.S. for Cultivated Meat, June 21, 2023

Good Meat, Instagram post, June 21, 2023

Upside Foods, Instagram post, June 21, 2023

UpsideFoods, Instagram post, June 27, 2023

Upside Foods, Meet the new meat, cultivated directly from real animal cells., accessed Aug. 4, 2023

U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Human Food Made with Cultured Animal Cells Inventory, accessed Aug. 4, 2023

Food & Wine, Here's What the First Cell-Cultivated Chicken Dish on a US Menu Will Look Like," June 29, 2023

Scientific American, Lab-Grown Meat Approved for Sale: What You Need to Know, June 30, 2023

The Associated Press, US approves chicken made from cultivated cells, the nation’s first ‘lab-grown’ meat, June 21, 2023

Meredith Krones, spokesperson for KFC Global, emailed statement, Aug. 4, 2023

Yum Brands, Yum! Brands Exit from Russia Complete, April 17, 2023

Russia Briefing, KFC To Trial 3D Bio-Printed Lab Grown Chicken Meat Nuggets In Russia, Sept. 4, 2020

KFC menu, accessed Aug. 4, 2023

KFC, KFC Beyond Fried Chicken FAQ, Jan. 5, 2022

McDonald’s communications department, email exchange, Aug. 3, 2023

McDonald’s, McPlant, accessed Aug. 4, 2023

McDonald’s, Wait, what’s really in McDonald’s burgers?, accessed Aug. 4, 2023

Wendy’s, U.S. menu, accessed Aug. 4, 2023

Moe’s Southwest Grill, menu, accessed Aug. 4, 2023

Taco Bell, menu, accessed Aug. 4, 2023

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Major U.S. fast-food chains are not selling lab-grown meat

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