Cultivated meat becomes part of the US culture wars

By Staff
4 Min Read

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he is saving the beef industry from the “global elite” when he signed a bill on May 2 outlawing cultivated meat in the Sunshine State. Shortly after, Alabama became the second state to ban lab-grown meat.

The Alabama bill, which was officially signed by Gov. Kay Ivey on Monday, prohibits the “manufacture, sale, or distribution of food products made from cultured animal cells in this state,” it said.

The state also describes cultivated meat as “any food product produced from cultured animal cells.”

Proponents of anti-cultivated meat bills — like those passed in Alabama and the Sunshine State — say that it protects cattle ranchers and farmers and prohibits an “elitist” class from promoting unnatural foods. 

“Agriculture is the backbone of this country,” said Gizmo Angus, a local cattle farmer in Molino, Florida, in an interview with ABC News. “Our food source is the most important thing that we can do as farmers and producers.” 

DeSantis echoed Angus’ message, saying that the industry was important to the state’s heritage. 

The cultivated meat industry made significant progress in July 2023 when the USDA and FDA granted Upside Foods and Eat Just permission to sell in the U.S.

Since then though, capital funding has dried up and consumer education has remained a major roadblock for growth.

Bans are a ‘distraction’

Despite the new state laws, and potentially more still to come, both Upside Foods and Good Meat said they are not planning on shifting strategy.

“The bans are disappointing, but they’re a distraction from our primary focus right now, which is commercialization. We’re currently focused on scale and bringing our next-generation products to market,” said Sean Edgett, chief legal officer at Upside Foods, in a statement sent to Food Dive. 

Upside’s new products include ground-textured cultivated meat products, such as chicken sausages, sandwiches, and dumplings, Edgett said. But the process for producing these products is still undergoing regulatory review.

Edgett described the legislation taking place in Florida and Alabama as “discriminatory,” and the industry is being represented either directly, or through advocacy groups who are supporting the cultivated meat industry within state legislatures as a result. 

“Moving forward, our approach will continue to be aimed at educating both consumers and lawmakers regarding the safety and potential benefits of cultivated meat. This includes attending hearings to address concerns directly with lawmakers, as well as through targeted campaigns.”

The company launched a petition to “give consumers a voice in this conversation.” It currently has a total of 4,000 supporters. 

Meanwhile, Good Meat issued a similar response and expressed its disappointment. “This bill sends a terrible message to the investors, scientists, and entrepreneurs that have built America’s global leadership in alternative proteins.” 

Good Meat also went on to discredit the scientific backing of the legislation and accused states like Florida and Alabama of only being focused on limiting the competition for “Big Ag.” 

A company spokesperson confirmed to Food Dive that Good Meat does not plan to shift its strategy.

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