Cultured meat producer Memphis Meats has criticised a petition brought by the US Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) to ban the use of terms such as ‘beef’ and ‘meat’ for any food products not made from animals ‘born, raised and harvested in the traditional manner’.

The clean meat start-up argued that the proposal would have a negative impact on innovation ‘at a time when the global need for protein-based foods in on an exponential rise’.

Memphis Meats CEO and co-founder Dr Uma Valeti told FoodNavigator: “To say let’s freeze innovation at this point in time is untenable and not in the interests of consumers… that would be a huge departure [from longstanding policy]. This would stifle innovation in products that have the potential to address many challenges posed by our global population and provide new options for consumers for protein-based products.”

He added that while lab-grown meats are still a novel concept, the products are ‘compositionally and nutritionally substantially equivalent to existing meat products on the market’, suggesting they should be covered by the same regulatory framework as traditional meat.

As of yet there are no cultured meat products on the market, but a handful of new companies are looking to release their products in the next five years, including Mosameat in the Netherlands; Memphis Meats, Finless Foods, and JUST in the US; and Integriculture in Japan. The rise in start-ups worldwide has led US regulators to question whether a new framework should be considered.

Valeti responded saying that the manner in which the lab-grown meat is produced bears no significance to the safety of the product, or from a labelling perspective. He stressed that ‘clean meat’ producers would make it clear on the packaging that the animals in their products were not slaughtered in the traditional manner.

Valeti urged the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to reject the petition, saying that cultured meats derived from animal cells meet the definition of existing regulations on meat.

“We’re not asking for new rulemaking, we’re saying we can accommodate clean meat within the existing regulatory framework,” he added.

“The only difference between clean/cultured meat products and conventional products is the process by which the animal parts are grown and harvested…. There is no discussion, let alone requirement, in any applicable statute or regulation that mandates ‘the traditional manner’ of meat or poultry production. Indeed, production methods have varied considerably over time.”

He mentioned that the company had begun talks with the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which were accelerated due to the petition.

“We are going to do more than the bare minimum and we are definitely considering putting together a package that would show that we meet the food safety requirements, so that’s on the radar,” said Valeti.

JUST co-founder and CEO Josh Tetrick told Food Processing Technology: “The leaders of the national and global meat industry want to feed the world animal protein in a sustainable way. That’s a shared interest that should be celebrated. And, to that end, rather than piling on with paperwork, I call upon the USDA and FDA to convene a series of sessions where we can meaningfully talk about the future of food production together.”