WASHINGTON — As new, alternative “meat” products make their way onto grocery store shelves, National Farmers Union (NFU) is encouraging federal officials to establish a definition for “meat” that fairly and consistently informs consumers about the difference between meat products that come from livestock raised in the traditional manner and alternative proteins that are created in a laboratory.
“Because of rapidly evolving technologies such as animal cell culture applications, NFU urges establishment and clarification of the standard of identity for ‘meat’ and related products to prevent mislabeling of food in the marketplace,” wrote NFU President Roger Johnson in comments to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “Existing labeling and marketing laws should be consistently enforced, and regulations should be updated to promote fair competition for producers and the health and safety of consumers.”
Johnson noted that common names given to meat and animal products are widely understood by consumers to be the tissue and flesh of animals that have been slaughtered for food.
“Foods produced using animal cell culture technology are not slaughtered, but rather are derived from animal cells grown in a petri dish and other growing media,” Johnson explained. “Thus, NFU opposes labeling of foods produced using cell culture applications as ‘meat’ and as related products such as ‘beef,’ ‘poultry’ and ‘seafood.’”
Johnson pointed out that FDA has the responsibility under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) to deem a food “misbranded” if its labeling is false or misleading, if it is offered for sale under the name of another food or if it is an imitation of another food. “Labeling foods produced using animal cell culture technology as “meat” and other related products is false and misleading,” he said.
Johnson said the topic is also concerning because of extreme consolidation in the beef, pork and poultry industries, which has diminished family farmers’ and ranchers’ market share.
“Lab grown products are likely to be produced by large companies, including the major global meatpackers, exacerbating the anti-competitive practices facing family farmers and ranchers and the rural communities in which they live,” said Johnson. “Fairly and accurately labeling animal cell culture products would provide some protection for family farmers’ and ranchers’ market share.”
“It is critical that a clear standard of identity for “meat” and related products is established and that this standard is implemented consistently across the federal government,” he concluded.
— National Farmers Union