February 01, 2024

Interpretive Summary: Some states looking to ban cell-cultured meat

Some states looking to ban cell-cultured meat 

By: Sydney Sheffield 

A House bill introduced in Arizona would prohibit cell-cultured animal products. House Bill 2121 would restrict the production and sale of cell-cultured animal products, citing public health concerns and harm to the ranching industry and state economy. If law, those who violate the legislation would face a penalty of up to $25,000.

This is just one of numerous states looking to prohibit cell-cultured animal products. Florida’s House Bill 435 would also restrict the manufacturing, sale, holding, or distribution of cell-cultured animal products. Representative Tyler Sirois introduced the bill, telling Poitico that cell-cultured animal products are an affront to nature and creation. “Without this legislation, untested, potentially unsafe, and nearly unregulated laboratory-produced meat could be made available in Florida,” said Wilton Simpson, the state’s agriculture commissioner and former Senate president, an industrial egg farmer. 

Arizona House representative Quang Nguyen has also drafted House Bill 2244, a bill that would make it illegal to “intentionally misbrand or misrepresent” an alternative meat product as meat. The bill states that foods “not derived from livestock or poultry” cannot be labeled as poultry or meat products. It suggests that this “misbranding” can be done in several ways, including affixing a false or misleading label, using a historically meat-related term, or representing a product as meat if it “is a cell-cultured food product” or “a synthetic product derived from a plant, insect or other source”. In September 2023, a similar law went into effect in Texas.

This Texas law requires the labels of cultivated meat products sold in the state to say “cell-cultured,” “lab-grown” or have similar language on the packaging. The law also requires plant-based meat alternatives sold in Texas to have “analog,” “meatless,” “plant-based,” “made from plants,” or similar language appear next to the label with similar size text as the product name.  

“Recent technological advancements have given the ability for companies to create food products from non-traditional sources that mimic traditional sources of protein, are created using alternative ingredients and methods of production,” said Senator Charles Perry in an analysis of the Texas law. “Oftentimes these alternative protein sources are created using analog or cell-cultured food products and are then marketed with labels such as "Beef," "Chicken," "Egg," and more when they do not contain beef, chicken, or egg. The increase in variety at the food counter can be a positive for consumers, but it is important for the consumer to understand the nature of the products they are purchasing to feed themselves and their families.”

Other states, such as California, fully support the innovation of cell-cultured animal products. The University of California, Davis opened the Integrative Center for Alternative Meat and Protein (iCAMP) in January 2024. The Center is said to lead advancements in sustainable alternative proteins. Those actively involved in the innovation of cell-cultured animal proteins are aware these products have a long way to go before consumers can purchase them at grocery stores. “We are not to the point where the product is anywhere near the cost of conventional meat,” said iCAMP Director David Block. “Widespread distribution of affordable products is likely to take 10 to 15 years.”

Across the globe, Italy has become the first country to ban cell-cultured animal products and animal feed, citing to protect traditions. Factories breaching the law will be subject to fines of up to 150,000 euros ($162,700) and risk being shut down, while owners may lose their right to obtain public funding for up to three years. “In defense of health, of the Italian production system, of thousands of jobs, of our culture, and tradition, with the law approved today, Italy is the first nation in the world to be safe from the social and economic risks of synthetic food,” Francesco Lollobrigida, Italian minister of agriculture said

Likewise, the president of Coldiretti, an association of Italian farmers, Ettore Prandini, said, “We are proud to be the first country that, despite being in favor of research, prevents, as a precautionary measure, the sale of laboratory-produced food whose effects it could have on the health of citizens consumers are currently unknown.”