Log in


House panel votes to make ‘lab-grown’ meats illegal

Posted 1/22/24

PHOENIX — Saying they want to prevent consumer confusion, members of a House panel voted Monday to make it illegal to call anything grown in a laboratory as meat or poultry.

You must be a member to read this story.

Join our family of readers for as little as $5 per month and support local, unbiased journalism.

Already have an account? Log in to continue.

Current print subscribers can create a free account by clicking here

Otherwise, follow the link below to join.

To Our Valued Readers –

Visitors to our website will be limited to five stories per month unless they opt to subscribe. The five stories do not include our exclusive content written by our journalists.

For $6.99, less than 20 cents a day, digital subscribers will receive unlimited access to YourValley.net, including exclusive content from our newsroom and access to our Daily Independent e-edition.

Our commitment to balanced, fair reporting and local coverage provides insight and perspective not found anywhere else.

Your financial commitment will help to preserve the kind of honest journalism produced by our reporters and editors. We trust you agree that independent journalism is an essential component of our democracy. Please click here to subscribe.

Charlene Bisson, Publisher, Independent Newsmedia

Please log in to continue

Log in
I am anchor

House panel votes to make ‘lab-grown’ meats illegal


PHOENIX — Saying they want to prevent consumer confusion, members of a House panel voted Monday to make it illegal to call anything grown in a laboratory as meat or poultry.

The 6-3 vote by the Committee on Land, Agriculture and Rural Affairs came over the objections of Drake Jamali, lobbyist for the Good Food Institute, a nonprofit that says it is focused “on making plant-based and cultivated meat delicious affordable and accessible.”

He said the Food and Drug Administration already requires anything produced in a lab to be labeled a “cell cultured” or “cell cultivated” product. And that, said Jamali, is enough to inform shoppers what they’re buying never came from a live animal.

But Rep. Quang Nguyen, R-Prescott Valley, said that’s not enough.

His House Bill 2244 would make it illegal to use any term that is “the same or deceptively similar” to one that has been historically linked to a specific meat or poultry product. And he said the FDA label just is not adequate to inform consumers.

And Jamali acknowledged the legislation could preclude items from being labeled “meat patties” or “nuggets,” even if they included that FDA language about being “cell cultured.”

What Nguyen pushed through the committee on Monday actually is mild in comparison with a proposal by Rep. David Marshall. The Snowflake Republican wants to bar outright the sale or production of any “cell-cultured animal product for human or animal consumption.”

But Marshall, whose House Bill 2121 also was set to be debated Monday, said he withdrew the measure from immediate consideration while he works on unspecified amendments. The legislation could be back on the agenda this coming week.

What’s behind both measures is the nascent industry growing up around alternatives to raising and slaughtering animals for food.

Much of that already is available for consumers in the form of plant-based burgers, ground meat, nuggets and other similar products. And a lot of that already is causing alarm among cattle growers.

“What they find is these plant-based products, they’re not all what they appear to be,” said Rep. David Cook, R-Globe, who is a cattle rancher. He said people need iron they get “from a real steak, from a carcass.” And he said the FDA has said those who consume plant-based meats fell below the daily requirements for calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc and vitamin B-12.

Rep. Michael Carbone, R-Buckeye, was more direct.

“We want to protect our cattle and our ranches,” he said.

The bigger — and growing — concern is over what can be produced in a lab.

It starts with the question of “is it meat?”

Shane Burgess, the dean of agriculture, life and environmental sciences at the University of Arizona, said different organizations have different standards.

For some, he told lawmakers, anything that is the flesh of animals, birds and fish qualifies. And that would include lab-grown items since they meet that definition.

But he said other groups like the American Society for Testing and Materials say it actually has had to come from something living.

What that leaves is the FDA requirement to list such products as “cell cultured.”

But Tim Petersen, owner of Arizona Grassraised Beef and a cattle rancher, said that’s hardly satisfactory. He said there’s still a lot of research being done.

“I don’t think the federal government has really clear parameters on what is lab-based or what is bovine calf serum,” Petersen said, one of the products used to promote cell growth.

“There’s a lot of words and a lot of shucking and jiving that goes on in the meat business,” he told lawmakers, leaving lots of room for creative wording. For example, Petersen said, the state Department of Agriculture allows meats to be listed as “Arizona grown.

“And you can literally slaughter cattle in the state and use the ‘Arizona grown’ logo,” he said.

But Berry Mendoza, testifying on behalf of Mission Barns, which produces products that contain real meat all without slaughtering an animal, warned lawmakers to be careful on exactly how much information they want to mandate for consumers.

Why not, he said, require pieces of meat at grocery stores to be labeled “Arizona slaughtered baby calf,”? he asked. Mendoza said labeling requirements can be used to deter consumers.

Cook, however, said that proves his point.

“When people go to the meat counter, that’s what they expect to find in the meat counter is meat from carcasses,” he said.

“I like meat and I am supportive of the industry,” said Rep Mariana Sandoval, D-Goodyear. “And we should definitely keep an eye on this technology.”

But she voted against the measure.

“I am not convinced that there is any mislabeling happening,” Sandoval said.

Rep. Lupe Diaz, R-Benson, disagreed, finding even the FDA requirements insufficient.

He said the term “cultivated” makes it sound like something that was grown from the earth,” he said.
The measure now needs approval of the full House.