Proposal would specify how “meat” is described at stores

Lab-grown beef is being developed now
Updated: Jun. 11, 2021 at 5:09 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Millions of Americans eat meat raised on a farm every day. But, lab-grown beef is going to be in stores before you know it.

State lawmakers want to get out ahead of it and make sure it can’t be labeled “meat” once it’s on the shelves.

“It becomes a slippery part of cultural perception of what the word means,” said Neal Fortin, MSU Institute for Food Laws director.

Fortin said this proposal doesn’t mean the word “meat” can’t be used to describe the product in stores.

“Meat has long term use for others besides just muscle tissue from animals. You know, the meat of nuts, nut meats and coconut meat,” he said.

Lab-grown meat is scientifically the same as meat we would get from cows or other animals. The difference is lab-grown meat is produced from cloned cells of a cow for example.

Right now, it’s not in stores because its too expensive to produce. State Representative Beau LaFave, who introduced the bill, said now’s the time to make the rules to protect consumers in the future.

“We just want consumers to have the knowledge of what they are purchasing. Nobody would expect when they buy chicken right now it would be some sort of lab science project,” said Rep. Beau LaFave, (R) Iron Mountain.

Fortin said companies working on these so called “meat substitutes” likely won’t have a problem adding labels when they are ready to hit stores.

“They want to market, I think, different. They don’t want to market it as being traditional slaughtered meat. That’s part of their marketing,” said Fortin.

LaFave’s proposal doesn’t include what the lab grown meat should be called. He’s leaving that up the marking teams at the companies making it. Neal said if they add words like synthetic meat, they will likely be ok since it’s not misleading the public. But he said they need to do it soon.

“If you don’t get in early before a consumer’s perception change, you can’t stop it,” said Fortin.

Similar bills were introduced in the legislature the last two years, but never made it out of committee. A handful of states already have similar laws on the books.

The FDA and USDA are working on how lab-based meat will be regulated once it’s approved to be sold in the U.S.

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