MACAU DAILY TIMES 澳門每日時報Lab-grown meat banned in some states even before hitting shelves

A chef prepares farmed chicken in Alameda, California

LAb-raised meat is not currently available in U.S. grocery stores or restaurants. If some lawmakers have their way, that will never be the case.

Earlier this month, both Florida and Arizona banned the sale of cultured meat and seafood, which are grown from animal cells. In Iowa, the governor signed a bill banning schools from purchasing lab-grown meat. Federal lawmakers also want to limit this.

It is unclear how far these efforts will reach. Some cultured meat companies say they are considering legal action, and some states — such as Tennessee — have shelved proposed bans after lawmakers argued they would limit consumer choice.

Yet it is a deflationary end to a year that started with great optimism for the meat sector.

The US approved the sale of laboratory meat for the first time in June 2023, allowing two Californian startups, Good Meat and Upside Foods, to sell cultured chicken. Two high-end American restaurants briefly added the products to their menus. Some cultured meat companies began to expand production. One of Good Meat’s products was put up for sale in a supermarket in Singapore.

But it didn’t take long for politicians to slam on the brakes. Lawmakers in seven states have introduced legislation that would ban cultured meat, according to Kim Tyrrell, deputy director at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In the U.S. Senate, Republican Senators Jon Tester of Montana and Mike Round of South Dakota introduced a bill in January to ban the use of lab-grown meat in school lunch programs.

The resistance is not limited to the US. Italy banned the sale of laboratory meat at the end of last year. French lawmakers have also introduced a bill to ban this.

The backlash is happening even though lab-grown meat and seafood are still a long way from reaching the market in any meaningful way because they are so expensive to make. Cultured products are grown in steel tanks using cells from a living animal, a fertilized egg or a storage bank. The cells are fed with special mixtures of water, sugar, fats and vitamins. Once grown, they are formed into cutlets, nuggets and other shapes.

Companies are heavily focused on scaling up production to drive down costs and obtaining government approval to sell their products. Now they’re also trying to figure out how to respond to the state bans. Upside Foods launched a petition on, inviting supporters to “tell politicians to stop checking your plate.”

“It’s a shame that they’re closing the door before we even get out of the gate,” said Tom Rossmeissl, Good Meat’s head of global marketing. The company is considering its legal options, he said.

Proponents of the ban say they want to protect farmers and consumers. Cultured meat has only been around for about a decade, they say, and they worry about its safety.

“Alabamians want to know what they’re eating, and we have no idea what’s in this stuff or how it will affect us,” Republican Sen. Jack Williams, the Alabama bill’s sponsor, wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “Meat comes from livestock raised by hard-working farmers and ranchers, not from a petri dish grown by scientists.”

But those within the cultured meat industry say their products must pass strict government safety tests before being released to market. Their emerging industry isn’t trying to replace meat, they say, but rather finding ways to feed the world’s growing need for protein.

Rossmeissl said the U.S. is currently leading the development of cultured meat and seafood, with 45 companies in the space, but that could change. In January, for example, an Israeli company received preliminary approval to sell the world’s first cultured beef steaks. China is also investing heavily in laboratory meat.

“It should be surprising and concerning to Americans that we are putting up barriers to something that could be really important to our economy and food security,” he said.

Sen. Jay Collins, a Republican who sponsored the Florida bill, noted that the legislation does not ban research, just the production and sale of lab-grown meat. Collins said safety was his primary motivation, but he also wants to protect Florida agriculture.

“Let’s not be hasty in replacing anything,” he said. “It’s a multi-billion dollar industry. We feed a lot of people across the country with our cattle, beef, pork, poultry and seafood industries.

Rossmeissl thinks the meat industry is trying to avoid what happened to the dairy industry after the introduction of plant-based alternatives such as oat milk. Plant-based milk accounted for 15% of U.S. milk sales last year; That’s up from about 6% a decade ago, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Good Food Institute, an advocacy group for plant-based and cultivated products.

Meat producers supported the bans in Florida and Alabama. The leaders of those states’ livestock associations – farmer advocacy groups – stood with both governors as they signed the bans into law.

But the picture is more complicated at the national level, where the meat industry does not support a ban on farmed products. Some meat producers, such as JBS Foods, are developing their own cultured meat.

“We do not support the route to completely ban these products,” said Sigrid Johannes, director of government affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “We are not afraid to compete with these products in the marketplace.” DEE-ANN DURBIN, MDT/AP

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