Cell-Cultured Meat Production Will Have Federal Oversight. Now What?

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The production of cell-cultured meat or alternative proteins will soon receive federal oversight from three agencies.

However, some cattle groups say there are still limited details. 

USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) and the Food and Drug Administration will play a role with the inspections. The announcement is something the beef industry has been pushing for a long time. That’s regulating what they call alternative proteins or fake meat.

“If they [companies who produce alternative proteins] want to operate within the meat space like they claim to do, they need to be regulated just like we are,” said Colin Woodall, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Senior Vice President of Government Affairs.

How big of a threat is alternative protein to the industry? Some analysts say it’s minimal for now.

“As long as we’re seeing all-time record per capita consumption of conventional animal protein, I still think the industry has a more solid footing than a lot of the stories and a lot of the fear mongering,” said Don Close, senior analyst with Rabo Agri Finance. 

However, Close says developing more proteins may not be a bad thing, especially as world population grows.

“Thirty years from now, we are talking of [having a population] just short of 10 billion people,” said Close. “We better be developing all of the forms of protein, all of the forms of food that we can get together.”

Memphis Meats gave AgDay a response to the announcement: “Memphis Meats has long advocated for joint oversight of cell-based meat and poultry by both USDA and FDA, and we commend Secretary Perdue, Commissioner Gottlieb, and their respective agency staff for working together to develop guidance that includes roles for both agencies. Demand for meat is projected to double by 2050, and every stakeholder we speak with, regardless of production method, shares the goal of feeding our growing planet in a safe and sustainable way. As consumer interest for cell-based meat continues to grow, we will work with both FDA and USDA to bring safe and truthfully labeled products to market.”

JUST, Inc. also gave AgDay a response:

“We commend the USDA and FDA for their commitment to creating a regulatory framework for cultured meat and we’re pleased that a formal agreement to jointly oversee this transformative sector of the food industry is now in place. Consumers must have confidence that cultured meat products are safe for consumption and appropriately labeled and we look forward to working with the agencies on a clear and efficient path to market.”