The world’s largest economy has followed Israel, China, Singapore and Japan to regulate lab-cultured meat products – paving the way for mass human consumption.
The move by the US Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) comes on the back of intense lobbying by alternative meat companies.
The companies have successfully argued that lab-grown meat should be regulated the same as meat from traditional farmed sources.
But why have the cell-based meat producers pushed for this?
Because to get mainstream traction, consumer confidence is paramount, according to JUST, a meat-alternatives company.
“Consumers must have confidence that cultured meat products are safe for consumption and appropriately labelled.”
However, Australian consumers aren’t as sold on the idea of cell-based meat as the US.
The University of Queensland is currently investigating the environmental and supply and demand impact of plant-based and cell-cultured meat production in comparison with traditional red meat production in Australia.
The consumer data from this research suggested that 82 per cent of consumers know little or nothing about lab meats and 79 per cent claimed to find the idea unappealing.
Cattle Council Australia CEO Margot Andrae said the sale of cell-based meat would potentially breach Australia’s current labelling laws.
“The term ‘beef’ or ‘lamb’ is likely to be understood by a reasonable consumer to be a reference to ‘traditional’ meat, being a cut of meat from cattle or sheep raised on a farm and slaughtered, which is not the case with cell-based meat.
“If the term ‘beef’ or ‘lamb’ was used for ‘cell-based meat’ it is likely to be considered to be misleading under the Australian Competition and Consumer Act,” Margot said.
The affordability of cell-based meat for consumers may also be a concern for Australian shoppers.
“Cellular agriculture is one of the most expensive and resource-intensive techniques in modern biology,” Ms Andrae said.
“Keeping cells warm, healthy, and well fed and free of contamination takes significant labour and energy.
“As such, lab meat is unlikely to be competitive on cost compared to traditional animal production in the foreseeable future.”