U.S. producers want labelling for imitation meat

NEW ORLEANS, La. — U.S. livestock groups want clear labelling on plant based protein and meat products generated in a laboratory so consumers know they are buying an imitation product.

“There are too many terms out there and I am not sure consumers are fully aware,” said Danielle Beck of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

The meat sector could have a fight on its hands against the new competitors who want to lure away customers on ethical, environmental and health grounds. Plant based and lab cultured products may not be winning over all consumers but surveys in Europe and North America indicate about a quarter of the population is cutting back on meat.

People are aware of the new products but still think beef, chicken and eggs are the best source of protein, said Mandy Carr Johnson of the NCBA. The issue was discussed at the organization’s convention held in New Orleans Jan 30-Feb. 1.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration will share oversight of these new products, said Beck. The products need to be evaluated in unbiased scientific trials.

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

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

The Good Food Institute is a U.S. based NGO that offers strategic support and lobbies on behalf of plant based protein companies. It is the driver behind the clean meat label.

Co-founded by Bruce Friedrich, a former PETA director of vegan campaigns, the organization has sued the FDA and USDA over freedom of information regarding soy milk. The dairy industry wants milk defined as the product derived from lactating animals.

A definition of meat already exists under USDA regulations.

Further, 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 because 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.

“Ultimately the lab grown industry envisions meat breweries for commercial production. They are talking about market entry as early as 2019 but last year they were talking market entry in 2018 so I think there is still a lot of time left and quite a bit of work to be done,” said Beck.

Contact barbara.duckworth@producer.com

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