Among the list of strained global resources, with the most urgent ones being fresh drinking water and raw materials for various manufacting processes, we can now add meat. In the last decade, however, more and more companies have been offering up creative alternatives to traditional methods of meat production that help reduce our dependence on the food resource.
Backed by a growing number of conservationists and environmentalists as well as advocates for bringing greater sustainability reform into the meat industry, lab-grown meat, or clean meat, has been slowly gaining popularity as a viable option.
However, in a classic clash of the old versus the new, companies that produce the meat alternative are facing opposition from the beef industry. At the center of the dispute is Memphis Meats, a San Francisco-based startup producing cell-based meat.
Their opposition in many ways seem justified: diversification within the meat industry means more competition, and as a result, fewer profits from those in the beef industry. Facing increasing pressure as the new kids on the block, the company teamed up with the influential North American Meat Institute to appeal to President Donald Trump for assistance with laying down a regulatory framework that creates space for the cell-based meat industry to continue to develop.
Today, @MemphisMeats and the @MeatInstitute sent a co-signed letter to the White House outlining a dual-agency (FDA and USDA) regulatory pathway for cell-based meat -- a significant first step towards a responsible, safe path to market. https://t.co/ZgeRgBxhkr— Memphis Meats (@MemphisMeats) August 23, 2018
In the letter, the authors make it clear that companies like Memphis Meats are merely seeking a shared place at the table, not planning a takeover. "Cell-based meat products are meat produced from animal cells in cell culture. They are an 'and,' not an 'or,' solution, and the latest in a long history of innovation in American agriculture," read the letter.
What this means is that both sides are willing to peacefully co-exist, but at the same time are communicating a clear message to the US government that structured regulation is the only way to make this happen.
Is regulation being used as a strategy?
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), the most influential lobbying group for the US cattle industry, sent a letter to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in April agreeing that cell-based meat should be considered meat since the stem cells used in the production come from parts of a carcass, and pushing for regulatory support:
“If producers of lab-grown or cultured meat products wish to call these products meat, they must adhere to the same stringent food safety inspection standards and comply with the same set of labeling mandates as all other traditional meat food products," read the statement.
Only two months earlier, however, a 15-page petition was sent to the USDA from the US Cattlemen's Association, in which they laid out details about the strict labeling of meat from slaughtered animals versus meat created in a laboratory.