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Lab-Grown Chicken Firm Picks Chicago Area for Large-Scale Plant

(Bloomberg) —

Chicagoans will soon get a taste of lab-grown chicken.

Upside Foods Inc., one of two companies cleared to sell the product in the US, is investing more than $140 million in a new factory in one of the city’s suburbs, the company said in a statement on Thursday. This will be the California-based firm’s first commercial-scale factory.

The plant is good news for the city, known for food companies including Kraft Heinz Co., McDonald’s Corp. and Mondelez International Inc., the maker of Oreo. It’s also a win for Illinois, which has been trying to position itself as a hub for new technologies from quantum computing to food tech and electric vehicles. 

“This new facility is a significant investment in our communities — creating new good-paying jobs while advancing our ambitious clean energy goals to create a more sustainable future,” Illinois Governor JB Pritzker said.

The move comes as Upside seeks to expand its offerings and reduce production costs. It also follows a $400 million funding round led by Singapore’s Temasek and the Abu Dhabi Growth Fund.

Upside got the green light from the US government to sell products commercially earlier this year. It is currently only available once a month at a single restaurant in San Francisco. 

While such early sales have been lauded as harbingers for major changes coming to the food industry, cultivated meat skeptics point out that companies remain challenged by scale and overall economic efficiency. Environmental benefits are unproven and depend in part on availability of renewable energy.

Upside’s 187,000-square-foot plant, based in Glenview, is expected to create at least 75 new jobs. While the facility will start by producing ground cell-based chicken products, there are plans to expand to other types of meat.

The company picked the Chicago area as the region is a major transportation hub, with easy access to other parts of the country. Chicago is also home to several universities, with ample talent.

“Establishing our plant in this region allows us to tap into a remarkable talent pool, a thriving innovation ecosystem, and a notable history of meat production,” said Uma Valeti, chief executive officer and founder of Upside.

© 2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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