The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service are asking the public whether or not lab-grown meat should be labeled as meat.

The agency published a notice asking for the public’s opinion on how lab-grown meat should be labeled to buyers, specifically on meat that has been grown from the cells of meat and poultry.

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USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety, Sandra Eskin, said, “This ANPR is an important step forward in ensuring the appropriate labeling of meat and poultry products made using animal cell culture technology. We want to hear from stakeholders and will consider their comments as we work on a proposed regulation for labeling these products.”

Lab-grown meat uses animal cells to grow meat. Thus, it is not “fake” or “imitation.” It is meat, just without the slaughter. Lab-grown meat is referred to by the public as ‘clean meat’ since it is still meat, but does not require the killing of animals. Plus, it is more eco-friendly as livestock does not have to be raised and processed. Unsurprisingly, meat companies are not too happy about this label. 

The USDA will be sharing the responsibility of overseeing the process of lab-grown meat along with the FDA to ensure that the best standards are kept throughout the entire process. 

The public can comment about whether or not they believe lab-grown meat should be labeled purely as meat, or labeled in some other kind of way. The comment section will be open for 60 days starting September 3, 2021.

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This labeling discussion echoes the many recent lawsuits around the labeling of vegan products. In California, Miyoko’s recently won a lawsuit concerning their usage of terms like “butter” and “dairy” on their packaging.  There have been plant-based food labeling lawsuits in OklahomaTexasMississippiWisconsin, and Arkansas, as well as in Australia and the EU.As with the lawsuits, it seems like referencing meat on the packaging of these lab-grown products would be helpful for consumers. Of course, some people may want to be aware that it is lab-grown because they would not purchase it otherwise, but completely steering clear of meat-related words would likely cause confusion.

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