USDA vows to label imitation meat

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association presses the government to ensure cell cultured protein is not called meat


By Barbara Duckworth, The Western Producer (Canada)

February 7, 2019


NEW ORLEANS, La. — U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has promised that meat substitutes will be regulated and labelled.


Cell cultured protein has received a lot of attention, and livestock groups such as the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association are pressing government to ensure it is not called meat. Clear labelling is demanded for plant based protein and meat products generated in a laboratory so that consumers know what they are buying.


“There are too many terms out there, and I am not sure consumers are fully aware,” said Danielle Beck of the NCBA.


“It is critically important that science is driving this debate. It is driving the regulatory framework governing these products.”


The Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture will be responsible for regulating and inspecting proteins created in a laboratory or other substitutes, said Perdue.


“I want to assure you when it comes to harvesting that and calling it a product for people to eat, USDA is going to be there guarding the safety and the labelling of that product,” he said at the NCBA convention, held in New Orleans from Jan. 29-Feb. 1.


New rules could be required to describe and regulate these products.


A definition of meat already exists under USDA regulations.


In 2017, the American Meat Science Association said research is ongoing to produce animal-sourced food without harvesting animals by culturing muscle tissue from stem cells in a liquid medium. To be considered meat, these products must be comparable in composition and sensory characteristics to meat derived from animals. The amino acids and fatty acid profile as well as micronutrient content should meet or exceed conventional meat.


While plant-based products are becoming more mainstream, no lab cultured products are available. The first burger cost $300,000 to make, but the price has come down to about $11 per burger. The first commercial product on the market is likely to be chicken nuggets. Beef and pork cells are difficult to work with. No muscle cuts are expected anytime soon, so the first beef products will likely be meat balls or crumbles...