A letter addressed to President Trump is seeking regulatory clarity in regards to lab-grown meat.
The joint letter was sent to the White House on Aug. 23 by Memphis Meats, Inc. – a company focused on cell-based meats – and the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) – a trade association representing beef, pork, lamb, veal and poultry packers or processors. The letter was signed by both Uma Valeti, co-founder and CEO of Memphis Meats, and Barry Carpenter, president and CEO of NAMI.
Within the letter Valeti and Carpenter state that both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have a proven track record to regulate cell-based meat and poultry products.
“As leaders and partners in meeting the world’s protein needs, we know that largescale production methods, small-scale farming, and cell-based meat and poultry production methods will all play a role. 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,” Valeti and Carpenter write.
The opinion of NAMI and Memphis Meats is that FDA should have jurisdiction on cell-based meat and poultry during pre-market safety evaluations. Following pre-market safety establishment USDA would then regulate cell-based meat and poultry products, ensuring the “products are safe, wholesome and properly labeled.”
“Such a regulatory framework is not new and plays into the strengths and experience of FDA and USDA: FDA has extensive expertise regarding products produced using cell culture technology and USDA has a longstanding role in inspecting meat and poultry products. We nonetheless understand that decisions made regarding a regulatory framework must be made with the input of all stakeholders,” the letter states.
As a next step forward NAMI and Memphis Meats suggest having a meeting with the White House, USDA, FDA, and both conventional and cell-based meat and poultry industry stakeholders.
The debate on who should regulate cell-based meat has been seen at the livestock producer level with organizations like the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) jockeying on what to call cell-based, lab-grown meat. If the product is called “meat” it would then be regulated by USDA, under current rules and regulations. However, if the product isn’t called “meat” it would move to FDA.
Following the letter USCA released a statement voicing concern that the term “meat” was still being used to describe the product. Previously cell-based protein product was called “clean meat” by Memphis Meat and is still referenced with that name on the company’s website.
“USCA remains concerned about the use of the term “meat”, but the commitment to come to the table to propose solutions is a step in the right direction. USCA continues to call on everyone in the cattle industry to get involved in this dialogue,” says USCA president and North Dakota cattle producer Kenny Graner.
USCA does think this is a positive step forward as the group has said a three-prong approach involving Congress, USDA and FDA would be ideal.
“Today’s announcement is a positive step forward, but there is still work to be done as we look to how these products are ultimately labeled and whether they are included at the meat counter,” Graner says. “We appreciate the effort being taken by Memphis Meats today and look forward to keeping the dialogue open as this product moves towards its public release date. USCA will continue to support accurate and truthful labeling on all U.S. beef products.”
Meetings have been held by FDA regarding lab-grown meat to seek public comment. However, the Trump Administration has proposed a government reorganization plan that would move federal food safety functions into a single agency housed within the USDA. This would in theory eliminate the FDA from the process.
For more on plant-based and lab-grown meat labeling read the following stories: