What do you call meat if it’s grown in a lab?

The USDA wants input on how cell-based meat -- meat, fish, and poultry grown in labs from animal cells -- should be labeled.


September 9, 2021

What do you call a hamburger when the cow it came from is still alive? That’s what the Department of Agriculture (USDA) would like to know.

Cell-based meat — AKA lab-grown, cultivated, or cultured meat — scored $360m+ in funding in 2020, per Food Dive.

And it is meat

… except it’s produced by taking cells from animals, then cultivating them in bioreactors to grow meat in ~2-8 weeks — no slaughter necessary.

Lab-grown chicken nuggets aren’t available in the US yet

But Singapore became the 1st country to approve cell-based meat last year, starting with nuggets from Eat Just, a California-based startup eyeing a $3B IPO.

Earlier this month, the USDA published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking asking for comments on how the department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) should handle labeling regulations.

The USDA wants input on things like customer expectations and names that could be false or misleading.

And there are already differing opinions:

  • The US Cattlemen’s Association thinks only meat from slaughtered animals should be called beef or meat
  • Harvard Law School’s Animal Law and Policy Clinic is against banning common terms, arguing it could be unconstitutional

Commenters have until Nov. 2 to weigh in.

BTW: If you think cell-based beef is weird, a 2020 London art installation about growing steak from human cells was extremely controversial.

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