With U.S. approval of cultivated chicken grown in fermentation vats, farm-state lawmakers filed companion bills in the House and Senate on Tuesday to require alternative proteins, such as plant-based foods, to carry the words “imitation” or “lab-grown” on their labels. Sponsors said they wanted to prevent confusion in the supermarket between “real farm-raised meat” and its rivals.
Plant-based meats accounted for 2.5% of retail packaged meat sales in 2022, according to the Good Food Institute, a think tank and network of organizations “working to accelerate alternative protein innovation.” Only a trickle of cultivated chicken is on the U.S. market at present. Upside Foods said last September it would build a commercial-scale plant to produce cell-cultured meat products in suburban Chicago.
The USDA is working on label regulations for cultivated meat. In the interim, it decided Upside Foods and Good Meat, which were cleared last summer by USDA to sell cultivated meat to consumers, would label their products as cell-cultivated chicken.
“The American consumer deserves to know what they are eating and feeding their family,” said sponsor Rep. Mark Alford, Missouri Republican. “It’s only fair that all products are labeled fairly.” Kansas Sen. Roger Marshall said, “Distinguishing between a black-bean burger and an actual beef burger shouldn’t be hard.”
Under the legislation, foods made with plant protein and that are sold with a name associated with products from a food-bearing animal or that are created to taste or look like them would be required to carry the word “imitation” on the label or a word to show the source of the protein. “Meatless chicken tenders” would be one possibility, according to a summary of the bill.
Similarly, labels for cultivated meat would include “cell-cultured” or “lab-grown” immediately adjacent to the name of the food.
The bill was backed by the largest groups speaking for cattle, hog, sheep, and chicken producers, the American Farm Bureau Federation, and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. Livestock producers have argued for years for restrictive labels to prevent alternative proteins from using names associated with animals.
A one-page summary of the bill is available here.
To read the text of the legislation, click here.