“The respondents were effectively divided into two groups: the “against” described cultured meat as “another thing our generation has to worry about” and questioned the motivations of those developing it, while supporters described it as “money invested for a good cause” and “a smart move” by people who are “advanced thinkers.”
Revising our understanding of meat to make room for in vitro meat involves a similar move. We should strip down our understanding of meat so that an element previously deemed essential — in this case, being sourced in an animal carcass — is no longer strictly necessary. On this updated, more minimalist understanding, all that is necessary for something to qualify as meat is that it has a meaty substance and function. Just as Model Ts and Teslas both qualify as cars, animal-sourced and lab-grown versions would then both qualify as real meat.
Many in animal agriculture have voiced strong opinions regarding the labeling of fake meat and milk. Several states, including Missouri, Mississippi, Arkansas, Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming and Louisiana, have labeling laws in place that prohibit companies from misleading consumers into believing that a product is meat from livestock when it is actually plant-based or grown in a lab.
As consumers, we sometimes seek out these imitation products as a cheaper or more readily available alternative to the original, but most often we would prefer the real deal. After all, the name itself implies that the original is better than the fake version.
The potential flexibility of plant- and cell-based meat producers to switch from one product to another within a species category (from loin to spare rib) or between species much more fluidly and inexpensively than conventional meat producers translates to substantial market advantages. Add to this a shorter production cycle that facilitates real-time response to demand, and it becomes clear that plant-based and clean meat producers are well-equipped to make judicious use of their production lines and to operate more consistently within their ideal profit margin.
Whether you are a consumer or rancher, I urge you to stay engaged. Demand that regulators clearly and carefully label imitation products, so we know what we are buying.Cell-cultured meat is not the same beef that my family and I produce. These new products must be defined and properly regulated to ensure we can continue to benefit from the safest and most abundant food supply in the world.