The choice of US government agencies to monitor lab-grown meat production is crucial for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s 180,000 direct and state affiliated members, writes John Wilkes.
Danielle Beck, NCBA director of government affairs, said: “The government has never had to deal with lab-grown protein before.”
“Our biggest question is how these products will be regulated, depending on if they scientifically meet the definition of meat.”
Currently the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates manmade meat. They do not require pre-approval of labeling information about a product.
However, NCBA would prefer the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) to monitor lab-cultured meat as it enforces pre-approved labelling.
FSIS is part of the United States’ Department of Agriculture and carries out meat inspection under federal legislation.
From the cattlemen’s perspective, FSIS involvement would avoid false marketing and ensure a level playing field for meat products regardless of how they are created.
They feel labelling claims need to be transparent and based on science.
An FSIS spokesman said: “The FSIS is responsible for ensuring domestic and imported meat, poultry and egg products are safe, wholesome and accurately labelled. FSIS has not made any determinations on cultured meat – animal species-specific tissues cultivated in vitro from livestock stem cells."
NCBA also takes issue with the term ’clean meat’ when applied to lab cultured products.
Miss Beck said: “Clean implies traditional meat is dirty. Use of the term ‘clean meat’ is disparaging towards traditional products.
“We want to ensure new products coming to the market are not confusing or misleading to the
NCBA feels consumers need to be aware cultured meat may not be free from food-borne pathogens and antibiotics may have been used during the production process.
Miss Beck highlighted the fact that in vitro meat cultures are generated from foetal bovine serum collected from a calf foetus taken from a slaughtered cow.
Miss Beck said: “This foetal material is derived in an inhumane way. The idea you are then ethically clean and can have a clean conscience is misleading.”
As a consequence companies are eager to find a suitable culture medium not directly derived from animals.
Miss Beck added: “If that is the case and they are able to successfully do that then more power to them.”