Fresh Food

Lab-Grown Meat Causes Food Labeling Confusion

The FDA is discussing how products created through cellular agriculture should be handled on-shelf


Cellular agriculture has come a long way in just a few short years, so when will we see cultured meats on the shelves?

On July 12, the FDA held a public meeting to discuss how to label foods and beverages that are produced using animal cell culture technologies. 

The primary focus of the meeting was food safety, and the FDA requested public comments on the subject through Sept. 25. In all, it received 477 comments supporting the FDA to regulate what many called “clean meat,” and without a doubt most of the people who commented were extremely supportive of cellular ag and wanting to consume lab-grown meat.

The Verge recently interviewed Christina Agapakis, a biologist who is the creative director at Ginkgo Bioworks, about the subject and what she believes is going to happen next.

She says, “T­he thing is, the consumer cares about how things are made. There’s a reason to make things using synthetic biology. For a lot of products, you can make things in a way that’s more sustainable or ethically sourced than usual.”

And when it comes to cultured meat, she said, the whole point of it is to say that it’s cultured meat, right? Show people how it’s made and how traditional meat is made, too. That said, right now cultured meat is a speculative conversation, and a lot of the labeling discussion is premature compared to what technology is available.

Agapakis believes cultured meat is going to have an incredible challenge, according to The Verve. Meat is cheap, she says; it’s a commodity, and it’s really hard to compete with commodities. 

While she seems pessimistic about the possibilities of having cost-competitive cultured meat, there is little doubt that Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are changing the way shoppers think and buy meat replacements.

Cellular agriculture has come a long way in just a few short years, and I have no doubt that we will see cultured meats on our supermarket shelves at competitive prices. The question is when, not if.



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