On December 1, 2021 New Harvest submitted a comment to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) in response to their Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) regarding the labeling of meat and poultry products produced using animal cell culture technology.
Anyone could give input—companies, consumers (anonymously, or by name!), nonprofits—and by the closing date, the FSIS received 7,234 comments.
You may notice that New Harvest does not actually suggest or advocate for any particular term. This is for a few reasons.
First, the question of what to call cell-cultured meat remains an ongoing conversation in several countries. From our perspective, there is no real consensus yet. Cultural preferences, consumers’ interests, and policies are specific to each country and culture. Whether you say “cultured,” “cultivated,” “cell-cultured,” “lab-grown,” or “cell-based,” we believe there is no right or wrong term at this point in time.
Second, the industry is still in its early stages. To date, only one product has been approved for market (a hybrid chicken nugget in Singapore). Perception, acceptance, and preference may change once consumers are exposed to more products in the global market.
Finally, we expect cell-cultured food products to be developed along a spectrum of compositions. Companies may combine cell-cultured meat, conventional meat, and plants like soy and peas in novel and yet-to-be-discovered ways.
Open questions include…What percentage of cultured cells is enough to call something a cell-cultured meat product? Should products with plant-based scaffolds still be labeled as cell-cultured? What nutritional, chemical, biological, and sensory standards must a cell-cultured product meet?
To answer such questions, companies will need to prioritize transparent disclosure and collaboration with regulators. A solid foundation of public data—which New Harvest is working to provide—will help rulemakers determine criteria and standards to guide communication about cell-cultured foods.
Until we have more data and clarity around these questions, New Harvest recommends against premature prescriptions about naming.
Our comment to the USDA discusses far more than just naming. Read our full thoughts here.