USCA asks government for labeling requirements on lab-grown beef
February 12, 2018
On Feb 9, the United States Cattlemen's Association submitted a petition for rulemaking to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service requesting the agency to establish accurate beef labeling requirements to better inform consumers on the difference between beef products derived from cattle and those created in a laboratory.
Following recent investment interest by major U.S. and international companies, USCA's membership initiated the effort to clearly label and identify alternative "beef" products that are not derived from cattle.
On Jan. 29, Tyson Foods joined in the exploratory meat growing trend, investing in food-tech startup Memphis Meats, a leader in cultured meat produced directly from animal cells.
"We continue to invest significantly in our traditional meat business, but also believe in exploring additional opportunities for growth that give consumers more choices," said Justin Whitmore, executive vice president corporate strategy and chief sustainability officer of Tyson Foods.
Cargill also is on Memphis Meats' list of investment partners.
This isn't Tyson's first investment in a meatless startup. Last December, Tyson invested in Beyond Meat, a company that produces plant-based meat alternatives.
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Calling it a "commitment to explore innovative, new ways of meeting growing global demand for protein," Tyson Foods, and other meat lab proponents are garnering some opposition.
These alternative "beef" products include synthetic product made from plant and/or insects and lab-grown product derived from animal cells in a petri dish, USCA pointed out.
A report from CoBank's Knowledge Exchange Division suggests these cultured meats will be among the top food trends to watch.
While producers are confident that the lab-grown meats will not compare to the homegrown, there is some concern over the labeling.
USCA President Kenny Graner points out that labeling has been a top priority of the organization, and member concerns over the labeling of the lab products prompted the petition.
"Consumers depend upon the USDA FSIS to ensure that the products they purchase at the grocery store match their label descriptions. We look forward to working with the agency to rectify the misleading labeling of "beef" products that are made with plant or insect protein or grown in a petri dish," Graner said. "U.S. cattle producers take pride in developing the highest quality, and safest, beef in the world, and labels must clearly distinguish that difference."
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Dubbed "clean meat," the product could be headed to the supermarkets before long, labeled as meat. In 2013, a Dutch scientist unveiled the world's first lab-grown beef burger in London. It cost $400,000 to produce, but the growth in technology and big corporation partners has the meat lab plan moving forward.
The drive behind the movement is primarily two-fold according to supporters. To meet the needs of the growing protein-loving population, and to reduce the carbon footprint.
The CEO of Memphis Meats, Uma Valeti, M.D., is a cardiologist turned meat maker. Sharing his transformation from a carnivore to a vegetarian, with Inc. Magazine, Valeti admits to having problems with traditional meat production. "I loved eating meat, but I didn't like the way it was being produced," he told Inc. "I thought, there has to be a better way. Our vision is for the world to eat what it loves, in a way that addresses today's challenges for the environment, animal welfare and public health. We are accelerating our work and building out a world-class team to make this a reality." ❖