One thing is clear when it comes to cell-cultured meat—livestock organizations and food watch groups want it clearly labeled.
Cell-cultured meat (aka lab meat) is a cellular product gathered from an animal and grown in a petri dish in a lab.
The 60-day period for comments to be submitted to the Food Safety and Inspection Service for a proposed rule on the labeling of cultured meat and poultry products closed Dec. 2. USDA’s FSIS is required to regulate the labeling of all meat and poultry products under its authority to ensure products are not misbranded. The comments were sought by the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service to enable the agency to establish labeling requirements for products.
The Center for Food Safety and Food and Water Watch submitted comments to FSIS, urging the agency to regulate and clearly label novel genetically engineered cell-cultured meat (“lab meat”) products. On behalf of its citizen advocacy community, CFS also submitted over 6,000 public comments to the USDA docket.
The comments surrounded consumer concerns around cell-cultured meats’ safety and labeling.
“Cell-cultured meats are imitation foods synthesized from animal cells, not meat or poultry that consumers know,” says Jaydee Hanson, policy director at CFS. “USDA must ensure that the labels used on these products distinguish the cell-derived imitations from real meat and poultry. USDA should use a label like ‘synthetic protein product made from beef cells.’ We don’t allow artificial vanilla to be called vanilla, but rather call it synthetic vanilla. A similar naming is called for here to avoid confusion.”
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association goes a little further in their comments.
NCBA believes that the term “beef” should only be applicable to products derived from livestock raised by farmers and ranchers.
“The regulations USDA develops now will play a crucial role in ensuring adequate consumer understanding, and NCBA feels strongly that the best way to accomplish this is through labeling standards that will clearly differentiate these products by way of a 'lab-grown' label. An NCBA consumer survey showed that when purchasing protein, 74% of consumers agree that there should be a definitive indication of whether meat being purchased is lab-grown or conventionally produced,” says NCBA Senior Executive Director of Government Affairs Danielle Beck. “If one thing is clear from our research, it’s that consumers want clear and definitive labels.”
The NCBA goes on to state that the organization believes the word “beef” represents a brand that has been cultivated through decades of innovation and stewardship.
The National Chicken Council also agrees that the basic nature of cell-cultured products must be made clear in the marketing to consumers. The organization agrees it’s necessary to avoid confusion between cell-cultured protein products and traditional animal protein products.
“This approach ensures a neutral playing field wherein consumers are provided truthful information about cell-cultured products so that they may make choices as they deem most appropriate,” says NCC SVP of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs, Ashley Peterson, in comments submitted to FSIS on its Advanced Notice of Public Rulemaking related to the labeling of cell-cultured meat and poultry products.
The NCC goes on to say they don’t want the terms “clean meat” used when referring to cell-cultured products or described in any way that disparages conventional animal proteins. Also, they want cell-cultured products labeled in a matter that clearly discloses the process by which they were made. The NCC also does not want cell-cultured products to use terms such as “wing,” “leg” or “breast.”