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CEO DATELINE – Trade group for ‘cell-based meat’ may be in the works

Sept. 11, 2018
By James Cullum

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Companies replicating animal cells in a laboratory—to be sold to consumers as an alternative to traditional meat—reportedly plan to form a trade group to promote their products and push back against possible regulations.

But first, industry leaders seem to be coalescing around what to call these products. Earlier this month, company executives met at The Good Food Institute’s Good Food Conference and agreed on the term “cell-based meat” in place of “clean meat” or “cultured meat”.  

“Some of these CEOs are saying they are going to use the term ‘cell-based meat’ now, and they are going to form a trade association,” said Matt Ball, a senior media relations specialist at GFI, a nonprofit that supports innovation in plant-based foods and other alternatives to animal products. “GFI has encouraged them to form a trade association for a long time.

So, what makes a hamburger a hamburger? U.S.-based cattle associations are currently hashing out the official definition of two words—beef and meat—and are opposed to letting these lab-made products carry similar labels.

In February, the $62 million-revenue U.S. Cattlemen’s Association filed a petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service to impose beef and meat labeling requirements on what it deemed “alternative products” that are not “born, raised and harvested in the traditional manner.”

“Consumers depend on a regulatory system that ensures their food is safe and accurately labeled,” said Danielle Beck, director of government affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “That is why it is encouraging to finally see USDA involvement on the issue of regulating lab-grown fake meat. USDA’s stringent food safety inspection processes and robust labeling protections make the agency the best choice for leading oversight of these new products. NCBA looks forward to participating in the public meeting and will continue to advocate for USDA’s primary oversight role.”

Next month, U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and U.S. Agriculture Sec. Sonny Perdue will conduct a two-day public meeting to discuss labeling issues and the potential hazards of growing meat for public consumption by culturing animal cells in a lab. There is also the question of exactly which federal department will oversee the industry.

“This is an important opportunity to hear from the agricultural industry and consumers as we consider the regulatory framework for these new products,” Perdue said in a statement. “American farmers and ranchers feed the world, but as technology advances, we must consider how to inspect and regulate to ensure food safety, regardless of the production method.”