USDA: What should we call cell-cultured meat?
With cell-cultured meat getting closer to the marketplace, the USDA’s meat safety agency is asking consumers how the high-tech products should be labeled and whether using names such as “pork loin” or “steak” to describe them should be permitted. A Federal Register notice, scheduled to appear on Friday, allows 60 days, until Nov. 2, for public comment.
Deputy agriculture undersecretary Sandra Eskin said the notice, known in the regulatory world as an advance notice of proposed rulemaking, “is an important step toward ensuring the appropriate labeling of meat and poultry products made using animal cell-culture technology. We want to hear from stakeholders.”
The activist U.S. Cattlemen’s Association reiterated its view from a 2018 petition to the USDA: “The terms ‘beef’ and ‘meat’ should be retained exclusively for products derived from the flesh of a [bovine] animal, harvested in the traditional manner.” The USCA said it would continue to argue its case with the USDA.
More than 6,000 comments were filed in response to the USCA petition, said the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. “Most comments opposed the petition overall,” the FSIS said. “However, nearly all generally agreed that cultured meat and beef should be labeled in a way that indicates how it was produced and differentiates it from slaughtered meat products.”
In its request for public comment, the FSIS poses 14 questions, beginning with whether the name of a meat or poultry product should tell consumers that it was made with cell-culture technology. Other questions ask if the names commonly applied to meat from food-bearing animals, such as “pork loin,” should be used to describe a cell-cultured product, and whether names that specify a type of meat, such as “patty,” should be available to cell-cultured products.
The FDA and USDA agreed in 2019 to share jurisdiction over foods made with cell-culture technology. Under the agreement, the FDA oversees cell collection, growth, and differentiation, while the USDA oversees the harvest, processing, packaging, and labeling of the products.
The text of the Federal Register notice is available here.