GOOD Meat – the lab-grown meat division of Eat Just Inc. – recently received approval from the FDA to bring its first alternative meat product to market in the United States, and hopes to feed paying customers soon. The company submitted an extensive filing of its own research to secure recognition of the safety of its product. Most companies seeking “generally recognized as safe” certification undertake safety testing themselves, which the FDA evaluates.
But GOOD Meat’s filing reveals the China-linked firm JOINN is integral to the production and quality control of the newly-licensed cultivated chicken. The company, founded in 2018 as an offshoot of its parent JOINN Laboratories, has a facility not far from Eat Just’s headquarters in San Francisco.
According to the filing, “JOINN Biologics US Inc (CA, USA) currently produces the chicken cells in a dedicated manufacturing suite” in Richmond, California. The filing goes on to describe how “the cells harvested at JOINN Biologics are frozen for shipment without cryopreservation agents to locations where the finished meat food products are prepared.” In addition to manufacturing the chicken, JOINN is responsible for ensuring the raw materials it is produced from are of a suitable quality and “food safety risks from potential adventitious agents or other contaminants” are mitigated.
JOINN Biologics made national headlines in 2022 when it bought 1,400 acres of land in Morriston, Florida at a cost of $5.5 million, to build a new primate quarantine and breeding facility to expand the parent company’s existing lab-animal-breeding operations. The purchase was one of the largest single purchases of American real estate by a Chinese company to date.
News of the purchase led to the revelation that JOINN, like most Chinese companies, has extremely close ties to the Chinese government and its biowarfare program.
A number of key personnel who work for JOINN Biologics and its parent company studied or worked at the Academy of Military Medical Sciences in Beijing. In 2021, the Academy was added to the U.S. trade blacklist for supplying biotechnology to the Chinese military. The founder of JOINN and chair of its board of directors is Yuxia Feng, a military physician and a graduate of the Academy. Her co-founder and vice chair of the board of directors, Conglin Zuo, worked at the Academy, in its Institute of Biotechnology. Other key personnel such as Hemei Wang and Shusheng Feng were also employed by the Academy, in the Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology. Feng has worked on research with a number of scientists in the People’s Liberation Army who are considered key players in China’s biological weapons research (Cheng-Feng Qin, Yusen Zhou, and Shibo Jiang).
Representative Scott Franklin (R-Fla) spelled out the obvious concerns in an interview with the Epoch Times: “The idea that we would permit a … biotech firm with ties to the Chinese military to breed lab monkeys on U.S. soil is baffling, especially after China unleashed the Covid-19 pandemic on the world… The Biden administration allowing Chinese Communist Party affiliated companies to buy up American land is unacceptable, especially for these purposes. If the President won’t put his foot down to protect American interests, Congress will.”
After indications that a change of use request would not be received favorably in Florida, it appears that JOINN never filed one, and the land at Morriston remains unused.
Fake Meat, Fake Ethics.
JOINN’s involvement in the testing and production of America’s first commercially available lab-grown meat raises questions about the safety certification process for the product and about Chinese influence over critical aspects of America’s infrastructure, including its food supply.
The news is also a major blow to the credibility of a foodstuff that is marketed on its “whiter than white” ethical credentials. Lab-grown meat is touted as the “cruelty-free” food of the future, a win-win for consumers who will be able to enjoy “real” meat without any animal suffering at all to produce it. With regard to GOOD Meat’s cultivated chicken, that credibility was already seriously in doubt. Despite CEO Josh Tetrick’s claims it is “real meat without slaughter”, GOOD Meat’s product is and always has been made with fetal bovine serum (FBS), an ingredient the company is careful to avoid mentioning, with good reason. FBS is extracted directly from the hearts of unborn calves in slaughterhouses, often while they are still alive.
Adding this to the fact that GOOD Meat’s product is made by a firm that breeds thousands of primates for experimentation, all moral grandstanding evaporates.
The National Pulse has previously reported on the potential safety risks associated with lab-grown meat made using immortalized cell lines. A recent Bloomberg Businessweek exposé revealed the big makers of lab-grown meat, including Eat Just, know this is a potential public relations disaster, and are doing everything they can to avoid talking about it.
Eat Just and its CEO also refuse to discuss the company’s questionable history under its previous name “Hampton Creek”. Hampton Creek was dogged by scandal from the day its first product, a vegan “mayonnaise”, hit the shelves in 2014.
Although the company has managed to continue attracting large amounts of investor capital, especially from the Middle and Far East, it has been unable to stop the flow of damaging publicity.
JOINN Biologics US was founded in 2018 as an offshoot of parent company JOINN Laboratories, established in 1995 in China.
JOINN Laboratories was the first private contract research organization in China created for the non-clinical evaluation of drugs. Headquartered in Beijing, JOINN has subsidiaries across China, including in Suzhou and Shanghai, as well as subsidiaries in the United States. With over 2,500 staff, the parent company offers a range of services from non-clinical safety assessments, through clinical trials to pharmacological oversight, services in veterinary medicine, pesticide evaluation, and the development of medical devices.
JOINN Biologics describes itself as a “full-service premier Contract Development & Manufacturing Organization which provides you with quality, value and speed to market from DNA to Drug Product.” In terms of manufacturing, it offers “Master cell banking, Upstream GMP manufacturing, Downstream GMP manufacturing, Fill and Finish, Quality Assurance, Quality Control and Documentation to support IND filing”. It classifies its “cell-cultured meat” capabilities as “biomass production”.
The company is based at the JOINN Innovation Park, an “emerging biotech campus for life science research and development companies in the San Francisco Bay Area biotech cluster”. The campus in Richmond, California has 30 resident biotech companies, offering services from “antibody and protein drug discovery” to “stem cells, cell therapy, and both medical device and preclinical services.” The site was bought by JOINN’s parent company in 2013 for $50 million. It had previously served as a manufacturing site for Berlex Biosciences, a subsidiary of the German pharmaceutical giant Bayer.
The acquisition came on the back of a $1.5 billion investment partnership between China and the State of California, which included the creation of a “California-China Office of Trade and Investment” to facilitate investment in China by Californian companies, and investment in California by Chinese companies. The creation of the Office had been promised a year earlier by Governor Brown when then-Vice President of the Chinese Communist Party Xi Jinping visited California.