Don’t Stifle Innovation, Lab-Meat Company Tells USDA

Memphis Meats says their lab-grown meat alternatives “meet the statutory and regulatory definitions for ‘meat’ and ‘beef’ products, among other terms, and therefore can be labeled as such.” ( iStock )

Restricting the use of the terms “beef” and “meat” to only products from animals would have a “chilling” effect on innovation. That’s what Memphis Meats tells USDA in an attempt to convince the government agency not to approve a petition submitted by the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association.

Memphis Meats says their lab-grown meat alternatives “meet the statutory and regulatory definitions for ‘meat’ and ‘beef’ products, among other terms, and therefore can be labeled as such.”

Memphis Meats made those comments to the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) in response to the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association petition in February asking FSIS to limit the use of beef to “product from cattle born, raised, and harvested in the traditional manner … rather than coming from alternative sources” such as plant-based or lab-grown methods.

“The only difference between clean/cultured meat products and conventional products is the process by which the animal parts are grown and harvested,” the company says in their comments. “This difference does not mean that the finished product is not ‘meat,’ ‘beef,’ or ‘poultry,’ as demonstrated not only by the relevant statutory and regulatory definitions, but also by the evolution in meat and poultry production and longstanding USDA policy.”

Restricting the use of the terms “beef” and “meat” would stifle innovation, Memphis Meats says, “at a time when the global need for protein-based foods is on an exponential rise.”

Additional comments were issued by Josh Tetrick, cofounder and CEO of JUST, the company formerly called Hampton Creek. "These are complex issues that require careful consideration and engagement by a range of stakeholders, including companies like JUST, that are addressing the technical challenges of creating safe, scalable meat made from cells instead of live animals."

Toward that end, Tetrick proposes the two groups work together.

"The leaders of the national and global meat industry want to feed the world animal protein in a sustainable way," Tetrick says. "That's a shared interest that should be celebrated. And, to that end, rather than piling on with paperwork, I call upon USDA ad FDA to convene a series of sessions where we can meaningfully talk about the future of food production together."

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