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Lab-grown meat on the verge of being sold and eaten legally

Lab meat on petri dish being made

A recent White House statement is interpreted by businesses producing lab-grown steak, chicken, and fish as a sign that eating meat produced without the use of animals is about to become legal in the US, according to Bloomberg Law.

Eric Schulze, vice president of product and regulation at Upside Foods, a cultivated meat company, the industry is “laser focused on commercial-scale production, and for us, that means moving into competing with conventional meat products in scale.” Within a year, the company hopes to start selling its meat in the US.

President Joe Biden’s executive order on biotechnology and biomanufacturing, which observers say could persuade federal agencies to permit commercial sales of meat grown from an animal’s cells, sparked a strong response from the traditional meat and poultry industry last month.

Don Schiefelbein, president of the business association National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, called it “a slap in the face to cow-calf producers and farmers across the country.”

Just two years ago, Singapore saw the sale of the first lab-grown chicken nuggets on a commercial scale. That remains the only nation where meat produced synthetically using animal cells is consumed. Startups and a few established food companies in the US claim, however, that their products are ready to be sold; businesses in Israel claim that their products are nearly ready for sale; and China has hinted that it may permit the sale of lab-grown meat within the next five years.

Producers of lab-grown meat claim that their product can virtually eliminate animal slaughter, reduce carbon emissions and agricultural runoff common to the livestock industry, and produce meat that is genetically identical to what Americans are used to eating from cows, chickens, pigs, and fish.

However, farmers and ranchers are skeptical that the food even belongs in the category of meat.

What It Does

Plant-based meat has demonstrated the value of labeling in the marketing of alternative proteins.

Genetically speaking, laboratory-produced meat is meat, not plant protein packaged into patties that resemble beef or chicken in appearance and flavor.

The steps involved in growing cultivated meat are the same regardless of the company or type of meat: take samples of an animal’s cells, put them in a bioreactor, feed the cells, and then harvest the cells once they have multiplied into meat.

Nutrients like vitamins and amino acids are fed to the cells. Once they have multiplied, they develop into the animal muscles and tissues that we know as meat.

Growing chicken begins with a master bank of cell lines that are thawed for about a week before entering a bioreactor, or “cultivator,” according to California-based Upside Foods, which was founded in 2015 and bills itself as the world’s first cultivated meat company. A growth medium is fed to cells as they start to replicate and provides them with the glucose, vitamins, and other nutrients they require to stay alive and reproduce, which usually takes one to two weeks.

The company Upside has developed cultivators that can grow whole, cut chickens. Scaffolding, an edible surface where cells can reproduce, is used by numerous other lab-grown meat producers. Depending on the type of chicken, Upside’s differentiation into specialized muscle and fat tissues can take a few days to two weeks.

The chicken from Upside is ready for consumption after three to five days of formulation and packaging. Although it doesn’t resemble a leg or wing, farm-raised chicken meat is biologically identical to it, and it can be formed into things like boneless chicken “breast” or chicken nuggets. It tastes the same, according to Upside.

According to Upside, the harvest time for its chicken is as little as two weeks. In contrast, a live chicken in an industrial farm is typically put to death no later than six weeks. While the length of the lab growth process varies depending on the producer and the type of meat, businesses like Upside note that their method may be more effective than conventional chicken.

The majority of the approximately 100 new businesses entering the market in the US are startups, but JBS SA, the largest meat producer in the world, is investing $100 million in cultivated meat. In addition to having a research and development facility for cultivated protein in Brazil and a pilot facility in Spain, it has acquired the startup company Biotech Foods that produced cultured meat.

Governmental Regulation

Although the Food and Drug Administration and the Agriculture Department agreed in 2018 to share regulation of the potential market, the US does not currently permit the sale of meat that has not been cut from an animal that was once alive. It’s still unclear how that actually appears.

The Agriculture Department granted $10 million to Tufts University to establish a center for excellence in cellular agriculture, and it published an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking on the labeling of products made of cultivated meat and poultry the previous year.

FDA and USDA will “continue to work in collaboration to develop more detailed procedures to facilitate coordination of our shared regulatory oversight, including developing coordinated labeling principles for livestock/poultry and seafood products made from cultured animal cells,” according to a spokesperson for the FDA. Regarding the launch of the market, we cannot make any assumptions.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service of the USDA also stated that the organization is working on developing a labeling rule but that it is still too early to comment on a timeline.

The FDA will control the collection of animal cells once the food is permitted for sale, and the Agriculture Department will be in charge of controlling the packaging and processing of the final meat products.

What Exactly Is Meat?

At a cost of more than $300,000, a Dutch pharmacologist debuted the first lab-grown burger patty in 2013. Startups are currently perfecting lab-grown steaks, fish, foie gras, meatballs, sausages, and other foods. They claim that in the future, these foods will be priced similarly to farm-raised meat.

How consumers will be able to distinguish between the two remains to be seen.

The US Cattlemen’s Association petitioned the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, the agency’s enforcement arm, to prohibit the use of terms like “meat” and “beef” in lab-grown products. The association wants these terms to be reserved for food from slaughtered animals. The agency is still deciding what to call this slaughterless meat even though it was rejected.

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The majority of the lab-grown meat industry agrees that their products should be labeled differently from traditional meat, arguing that consumers will prefer their meat for its novelty and benefits to the environment. The term “cultivated” meat is preferred by many in the industry because it is transparent but not repulsive in their eyes.

At the school’s recent Cultivated Meat and Alternative Proteins Summit, Denneal Jamison-McClung, director of the UC Davis Biotechnology Program, stated, “We need to build trust with consumers that way.

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