Science Technology

Beef Industry Goes After Lab-Grown Startups, Wants USDA To Label Them As ‘Not Meat’

The rise of lab-grown meat in recent months has finally drawn the attention of the beef industry. Now, they’re trying to cut the cultured meat newcomers’ legs from underneath them before they have a chance to even get started.


Photo courtesy of Memphis Meats.

Business Insider reports that the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association has petitioned the USDA to ask that lab-grown meat not be allowed to be called “meat.” The 15-page petition calls for the USDA to strictly define “meat” and “beef” as coming from animals that are raised and slaughtered. Since the whole draw of lab-grown is that it can be done without killing the animal, it would force companies like Memphis Meats to find a new name for their products: one that’s likely less attractive than “clean meat.”

The USCA’s challenge to the cultured meat industry brings to light one of the biggest questions surrounding the technological breakthrough:

Is lab-grown meat really meat?

Technically, products like Memphis Meats’ fried chicken are grown from the live tissue of an animal until they’re the size of a typical portion of protein. However, Evan Marks, founder and president of The Ecology Center, noted on Foodbeast’s podcast The Katchup that lab-grown meat signified that we are “separating from nature,” which made him feel uneasy about the tech.

Here’s what members of the Foodbeast fam had to say when asked if lab-grown meat is real meat or not:

Richard Guinto

“Meat is meat. Yeah, it’s meat. What would you call cultured or lab-grown meat, then? It’s meat!”

Rudy Chaney

“I consider Kraft singles cheese even though they might not consider them cheese. But I know it’s cheese and that it’s made from cheese. So, I consider it meat. I don’t know if I like it or if I’d wanna eat it, but, technically, it’s meat.”

Evan Lancaster

“No. Because it doesn’t come off an animal that’s like, living. It’s grown on culture that’s not necessarily natural. It’s man-made, so therefore I feel like it’s a fabricated meat product. When we consider meat, we gotta be very conscious of it coming out of a womb and being born into the world, not created by man.”

Isai Rocha

“It still derives from an animal, right? I can see why it could be meat, but I would say no. I feel like that’s more toward the vegan style of making up your own meat, even though it still comes from an animal. I’d probably give it it’s own name, it’s own category.”

Rishu Bharadwaj

“No, because it’s not originally what we would consider meat. I guess you could call it meat, but it needs to be dead first.”

Chris Abouabdo

“To reasonably answer that question, you have to understand what the definition of meat is. I would consider it to be the flesh of animals, so if it was grown in a lab or cut off of a freshly slaughtered cow, I don’t know if there’s a difference.”

Peter Pham

“I think it’s considered meat, as long as it comes from a source that originates from some form of meat.”

Memphis Meats and other clean meat producers will likely look to combat the USCA’s petition, which they can do by submitting their own petition or other memo to the USDA asking to not consider the USCA’s request. Whether that happens or not will be interesting to see as the legal battle between traditional and lab-grown meat intensifies.