The Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) recent approval of the first alternative meat product from GOOD Meat, the lab-grown meat division of Eat Just Inc., has brought forth a wave of controversy. It has been discovered that JOINN Biologics, a Chinese firm with connections to China's biowarfare program, plays a significant role in the production and quality control of GOOD Meat's newly licensed cultivated chicken. This revelation has raised concerns about safety certification processes and the influence of China on critical aspects of America's food supply.
JOINN Biologics, founded in 2018 as an offshoot of its parent company JOINN, is responsible for producing chicken cells in a dedicated manufacturing suite in Richmond, California. The harvested cells are frozen and shipped to locations where the finished meat products are prepared. Additionally, JOINN is responsible for ensuring the raw materials' quality and mitigating food safety risks related to potential adventitious agents or contaminants.
The involvement of a Chinese firm associated with a biowarfare program has sparked worry among stakeholders. Given China's influence on various aspects of America's infrastructure, including its food supply, questions about credibility arise, particularly concerning a foodstuff marketed for its "whiter than white" ethical credentials. Lab-grown meat is often promoted as cruelty-free food, appealing to consumers concerned about carbon emissions from livestock and poultry. It offers a way to enjoy "real" meat without contributing to animal suffering during its production.
However, GOOD Meat's product has been made with fetal bovine serum (FBS), an ingredient the company avoids mentioning. FBS is extracted from the hearts of unborn calves in slaughterhouses, sometimes while they are still alive. A recent report by Bloomberg Businessweek exposed that major players in lab-grown meat, including Eat Just, are aware of the potential public relations disaster associated with FBS and actively avoid discussing it.
JOINN Biologics has made headlines before for purchasing a large parcel of land in Florida to build a primate quarantine and breeding facility, expanding its lab animal breeding operations. Some key individuals at JOINN have ties to the Academy of Military Medical Sciences (AMMS) of the People's Liberation Army in Beijing, an institution added to the U.S. trade blacklist in 2021 for supplying biotechnology to the Chinese military. The founder and chair of JOINN's board of directors, Yuxia Feng, is a military physician and AMMS graduate. Conglin Zuo, co-founder and vice chair of the board, worked at the academy's Institute of Biotechnology.
This involvement with a Chinese company tied to the military has drawn criticism, particularly given the context of China's role in the COVID-19 pandemic. Lawmakers have expressed concerns about allowing Chinese Communist Party-affiliated companies to acquire American land, especially for such purposes.
The approval of GOOD Meat's lab-grown chicken, in light of its ties to JOINN Biologics and the Chinese military, has raised valid concerns about food safety, ethical practices, and national security. As more information comes to light, there will likely be calls for greater scrutiny and transparency in the lab-grown meat industry to ensure consumer confidence and safeguard American interests.