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.

Health News Now Trending

USDA Embargoes Tainted Brazilian Beef Over Food Safety Concerns

After a large portion of Brazil’s beef was found to be rotten and tainted in a massive corruption scandal, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue has finally decided that the time has come to halt imports of the beef to the United States.

The USDA, who has been inspecting 100% of all Brazilian beef imports since the scandal began back in March, announced their embargo on Brazilian beef after rejecting over 1.9 million pounds of beef from the South American country since the increased inspections began. That amount corresponds to 11% of all Brazilian beef, which is a much higher rejection rate than the 1% the rest of the world has when the US inspects their beef.

According to Cattle Network, the new embargo also stems from Brazil’s inspectors halting shipments of beef from five of their packing plants when foot-and-mouth disease — which causes abscesses inside and outside of the beef — were discovered.

In a news release from the USDA, Secretary Perdue commended the Food Safety Inspection Service that has been monitoring Brazilian beef imports for its hard work and emphasized the importance of food safety in making his decision.

“Although international trade is an important part of what we do at USDA, and Brazil has long been one of our partners, my first priority is to protect American consumers. That’s what we’ve done by halting the import of Brazilian fresh beef. I commend the work of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service for painstakingly safeguarding the food we serve our families.”

As of now, there is no timetable as to when Brazilian beef will be allowed back into the United States, but similar contaminations halted Brazilian imports back in 2003 for over a decade. Only time will tell now how long it will take for the imported beef to be proven safe enough to be allowed into our borders once more.

Health News Packaged Food

Over 500,000 Frozen Burritos Recalled Due To Listeria Contamination

If those little frozen burritos are in your daily lunch rotation, check that they’re not from Green Chile Food Company, or you might end up getting sick.

Green Chile recalled 252,854 pounds of frozen burritos after the USDA discovered traces of listeria in a beef and potato burrito this past Saturday.

According to the USDA, listeriosis symptoms can include fever, muscle aches, headaches, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions followed by diarrhea. The effects can be even worse for pregnant women, as it can lead to miscarriages, stillbirths, premature delivery, or life-threatening infections to the newborn.

Green Chile sells its burritos throughout California, Illinois, Oregon, and South Dakota, but thankfully, no one has gotten sick from them yet.

The burritos in the recall were produced between March 8 to May 10, and the USDA suggests you take them back for a refund, or at the very least throw them away.

Below is a complete list of of all the products in the recall, a handful of them often found at ampm convenience stores:

  • 8-oz paper wrap packages containing “am pm & Green Chile FOOD COMPANY, EGG & BACON BURRITO with Cheddar Cheese, Potato, Green Chile, Salsa & Jalapeños” with case code of 833425000900.
  • 8-oz paper wrap packages containing “am pm & Green Chile FOOD COMPANY, POBLANO CHICKEN BURRITO with Monterrey Jack Cheese, Salsa, Rice, Onion, Green Chile and Green & Red Bell Peppers” with case code of 833425000931.
  • 8-oz paper wrap packages containing “am pm & Green Chile FOOD COMPANY, BEEF & POTATO BURRITO with Cheddar Cheese, Green Chile & Salsa” with case code of 833425000887.
  • 7-oz paper wrap packages containing “Green Chile FOOD COMPANY, Chipotle Chicken Burrito with Salsa & Monterey Jack” with case code of 833425001426.
  • 7-oz paper wrap packages containing “Green Chile FOOD COMPANY, CARNITAS Burrito with Salsa, Monterey Jack & Cilantro Lime Rice” with case code of 833425001488.
  • 7-oz paper wrap packages containing “Green Chile FOOD COMPANY, EGG & SAUSAGE Breakfast Burrito with HASHBROWNS, Salsa, & Cheddar” with case code of 833425000382.
  • 7-oz paper wrap packages containing “Green Chile FOOD COMPANY, EGG & BACON Breakfast Burrito with HASHBROWNS, Salsa, Green Chile & Cheddar” with case code of 833425000368.
  • 7-oz paper wrap packages containing “Green Chile FOOD COMPANY, BEEF Burrito with POTATO, GREEN CHILE, Salsa & Cheddar” with case code of 833425000320.
  • 7-oz paper wrap packages containing “Green Chile FOOD COMPANY, CHICKEN FAJITA Burrito with Salsa & Cheddar” with case code of 833425000429.
  • 7-oz paper wrap packages containing “Green Chile FOOD COMPANY, SHREDDED STEAK Burrito with Salsa, Monterey Jack, Green Chile, Onion, Rice & Jalapeño Peppers” with case code of 10833425008941.
  • 7-oz paper wrap packages containing “Green Chile FOOD COMPANY, BEEF & BEAN Burrito with Green Chile, Salsa & Cheddar” with case code of 833425000344.
  • 7-oz paper wrap packages containing “Green Chile FOOD COMPANY, FIESTA Breakfast Burrito with Beef, Egg, HASHBROWNS, GREEN CHILE, Cheddar & Sausage” with case code of 833425000405.

Photo courtesy of Kobi5

Animals Health News

[INFOGRAPHIC] How the USDA Improved Organic Livestock and Poultry Treatment


Photo: One Green Planet

Many times, when we hear about “cage-free” or “organic” raised poultry and livestock, the living conditions of the animals don’t match up to the image in our minds. Cage-free chickens and eggs are usually still confined in a small indoor living area, and ammonia emissions and outdoor living requirements for livestock aren’t well defined or heavily enforced — leading to lower quality livestock and poultry than what we would expect.

Today, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is aiming to change that with a new series of rules on bettering practices for organic poultry and livestock.

The new rules, published this morning in the Federal Register, specifically focus on the living and travel conditions of organic chicken and livestock, with aims to clarify and ensure consistency amongst how the animals are raised and their living conditions.

While the actual rules themselves are incredibly extensive, key features of the new rules (along with a timetable for required implementation) are included below in a USDA-generated infographic. Take a look for yourself:


Photo: USDA

There’s definitely a lot covered in this set of new guidelines by the USDA, but it definitely raises the quality and safety of organic chicken and livestock. When their quality of life is better, there’s a lower risk for fecal-based pathogens to spread amongst livestock, as well as lower risks of injury to the birds themselves. These result in higher-quality, safer-to-eat animals that consumers can appreciate.

The new rules begin taking effect within the next year, so expect these changes to start happening rapidly.

Feel Good Health News

For the First Time Ever, Food Stamp Users Can Buy Food Online


Photo: Civil Eats

For those living in areas where fresh, healthy food is hard to find, this is amazing news and a true blessing.

The USDA announced the launch of a new pilot program for participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to begin purchasing food online. This program is limited to a few states and retailers for now due to the higher security needed for food stamp online purchasing and the newness of the system. As the online system for SNAP food stamps is incorporated and security of the program tested, the USDA plans to expand this online system to all retailers nationwide in the future.

So far, the available retailers and states they will serve for the online order and purchase program is as follows:

Amazon – Maryland, New Jersey, New York

FreshDirect – New York

Safeway – Maryland, Oregon, Washington,

ShopRite – Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania

Hy-Vee, Inc. – Iowa

Hart’s Local Grocers – New York (based in Rochester)

Dash’s Market – New York (based in Buffalo)

The launching of this program is great news for anybody on food stamps. While food stamps have allowed the purchase of healthier food in recent years, its always required going to a grocery store or food retailer to purchase food. The issue with that is that some of the 44 million people in SNAP live in so-called “food deserts,” or areas where grocery stores and establishments to purchase fresh food barely exist or don’t exist at all. At least 2 million low-income people live in food deserts without access to a vehicle.

With this online ordering program, people on SNAP will find it much easier to get the food they need. While the pilot program won’t cover service or delivery fees, it still provides welcome monetary relief and delivery convenience for those who live in food deserts.


Culture News Packaged Food Products What's New

Sorry USDA, But Your New Expiration Date Language Won’t Help Food Waste


The USDA has finally come to the conclusion that something is wrong with the “use by” and “best by” labels on our food.

The agency’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) released a sheet of new recommendations for “food dating,” as it’s called, regarding how these labels of food quality should be presented.

To note, there is no uniform labeling code for these food quality labels from the USDA. This leads to a variety of labels that manufacturers and retailers understand and know, which include “sell by” for when retailers should take the products off the shelves, and “best by” for when the product begins to lose quality characteristics like color, texture, flavor, or nutritional content.

These dates that are presented on labels lead to a huge misunderstanding with consumers, however. Often, they treat these dates as the true expiration dates for products, and if an item is past that date, they will toss it out accordingly. However, all products are still edible and of high-quality following these labeled dates. Milk can last up to a week after its “best by date,” for example, and canned goods are edible up to months beyond the dates on their labels as well.

This consumer misunderstanding is a huge reason for a lot of food waste issues, which accounts for a loss of roughly a third of the U.S. food supply every year, and includes half of our produce supply that totals out to $160 billion wasted by consumers annually.

The USDA wants to change the language on these labels to help give a clearer message to consumers about what will happen to their food after the date by using the words “best if used by” instead. According to the USDA, it’s an indication that the food is still usable and fine after the date on the label:

“To reduce consumer confusion and wasted food, FSIS recommends that food manufacturers and retailers that apply product dating use a “Best if Used By” date. Research shows that this phrase conveys to consumers that the product will be of best quality if used by the calendar date shown.”

These new labeling guidelines were drafted by the USDA in response to this growing food waste issue, and is part of the USDA’s commitment with the Environmental Protection Agency to cut food waste in half by 2030. These changes are well-intended and a good step by the USDA. However, based on these trends from above regarding the labels, it isn’t going to help with the food waste issue.

Consumers are still going to believe that these labels mean that the products are no longer good to eat after these dates, because having a “best by” or “best if used by” date indicates that the product will get worse afterward — something consumers don’t want to deal with. That language also won’t give consumers what they really want, which is a definitive ending date as to how long their products will last.

When the public understands exactly how long their food will last, they’ll be able to plan their meals and usage of products better, thus affecting the decrease of food waste for the better. These new recommendations on the language of the labels don’t improve enough to make that clear to consumers, however.

It’s a good first step, no doubt. But until specificity of product use timelines are established, it won’t change the attitudes of consumers in the ways the USDA hopes it will.

Health Opinion Products What's New

The USDA Tried to Make Milk Chocolate Healthy, May Trigger Your Peanut Allergies Instead

As a food scientist myself, it’s clear that food needs to be redeveloped around what consumers want and what is necessary for the future of food. So when research is done to help make foods healthier and utilizes something like food waste to put food back into our system, it’s a double-plus. Sometimes, that research leads to amazing results, like when carrot pulp was discovered as a healthy way to make puffy chips/Cheetos.

Sometimes, however, that research goes a little too far.

That clearly is the case with what happened on this joint study between the USDA and North Carolina State University. As reported by Quartz, the research was an effort to make milk chocolate perceived by consumers as healthier.

Researchers decided to make their chocolate healthier by putting antioxidants into milk chocolate and had consumers taste it to see if they could tell the difference. Sounds tame enough on its own, but wait until you hear where it’s coming from.

They’re extracting these compounds out of the skins of peanuts, encapsulating them with maltodextrin (which is basically converted cornstarch) to hide their flavor, and then adding that to the milk chocolate.


Photo: Phys

Don’t get caught up on the maltodextrin part, it’s the peanut concern that we’re bringing up here. Immediate concerns come from the fact that peanuts are being used as the source of antioxidants. Let’s not forget how serious peanut allergies are, like the USDA did when they performed this study. None of the tasters had peanut allergies.

Basically, the research was conducted on this new antioxidant source without even taking a look at allergenic concerns. From a food safety standpoint, allergies need to be one of the first things looked at when considering a new source for a food ingredient. What if that skin extract contains the compounds that trigger peanut allergies? That has to be considered as a first step.

Additionally, while the new milk chocolate has more antioxidants than dark chocolate does, that raises the question of how the antioxidants are lost from the milk chocolate. Milk chocolate does have a lot more milk and sugar than dark chocolate, so the antioxidant content is much lower by default. Milk chocolate is also unhealthier in that regard, since it contains a higher sugar and fat content thanks to the milk and sugar added into it.

So does adding these antioxidants suddenly make the milk chocolate healthier? The USDA was banking on that for this research, since antioxidant-rich foods are currently trending. But adding these simple compounds doesn’t change any of the caloric content, fat, or sugar in the food. We also don’t know how much this peanut skin extraction process costs, or if the antioxidant-added chocolate will be allergenic.

In simpler words, if this does become a product, dark chocolate is a healthier, natural alternative with no potential peanut allergies and much less sugar and milk. Eat that instead.

Fast Food

Asian Sandwich Chain Forced To Recall More Than 200,000 Pounds Of Meat


Lee’s Sandwiches is recalling 213,000 pounds of meat items that weren’t properly inspected, reports the Los Angeles Times. According to a news release, products that were produced without inspection were susceptible to increased human health risk.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture stated that the products Lee’s was serving had been produced in a facility that wasn’t marked by the USDA seal. These included both pork and chicken pates, salami, steamed meat buns, cooked turkey breast and beef jerky which had been produced between May 18, 2014 and May 18, 2015.

Lee’s Sandwiches supplied meats to locations in California, Nevada, Arizona, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas.

As of publication, there hasn’t been any reports of illnesses from the meat. However, better safe than sorry.

Photo: Lee’s Sandwiches