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‘Cell-Based Meat’ Sees a Truce

The U.S. meat industry and its emerging competitors in the field of lab-grown meat struck a truce in a letter to the White House. They said FDA and USDA should jointly regulate the new product that they agreed to call “cell-based meat and poultry.” The proposal would avert a potentially nasty fight among agencies over regulation of the products, including the question whether they can even be sold as meat, something strenuously opposed by cattle groups.

“Cell-based meats . . . are the latest in a long history of innovation in American agriculture,” says the letter signed by the North American Meat Institute, a trade group for the meat industry, and Memphis Meat, one of a handful of start-ups that aim to put cell-based meat, also called clean meat and cell-cultured meat, on the market in less than a year. “FDA should have oversight over premarket safety evaluations for cell-based meat and poultry products. Given USDA’s expertise in regulating meat and poultry, that role should continue.”

A number of meatpackers, including Tyson Foods, have taken small stakes in companies developing cell-based meats. The industry sometimes describes itself as a “protein producer,” and longtime meatpackers also are dabbling in plant-based proteins.

Meanwhile, a new Missouri state law prohibits plant- and cell-based products from using the word “meat” on their labels. The term is reserved for flesh from animals. As soon as it took effect in late August, companies that sell meat substitutes filed suit against the law.

This article was produced in collaboration with the Food & Environment Reporting Network, an independent, nonprofit news organization producing investigative reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.

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