For those of us who didn’t grow up on a farm, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by confusing information about the development of synthetic or lab-grown “meat” (also known as cultured “meat” – read on to see why we’ll keep using quotation marks on this term). This is where animal muscle tissue is artificially created in laboratory-like conditions from animal stem cells bathed in nutrients and ‘growth factors.’ Companies have sprung up all over the world in the race to create cultured imitations of beef, chicken—and even shrimp and tuna.
As consumers, most of us just want to be able to buy and enjoy healthful food with our friends and family. Food labeling is supposed to make that easy, simple and safe to do. But the powerful corporations and investors behind the rise of the lab-grown “meat” industry know that many consumers just don’t want to eat the stuff – and that transparent, clear labeling gets in their way.
Despite the hype, there are huge uncertainties about the safe production of lab-grown protein, as well as the claimed environmental benefits.
NOW IS THE TIME TO SPEAK UP
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) is now taking comments from stakeholders and the public to determine rules around the labeling of lab-grown protein products, under the “Labeling of Meat or Poultry Products Comprised of or Containing Cultured Animal Cells”.
For many of us, even the idea that these items could be considered “meat or poultry products” is disturbing. But unless we all raise our voices, there’s a real risk that lab-grown animal protein products could be sold on supermarket shelves and in restaurants without anyone knowing what they really are.