"Meat" Becoming a Relative Term as Market Continues to Grapple with Advent of Lab-Grown Protein

Feb 28, 2019

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Kevin Kester is a fifth-generation California beef producer and immediate past president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. This week, just prior to the 2019 Commodity Classic in Orlando at the Bayer AgVocacy Forum, he represented the conventional beef industry on a panel discussion focused on “fake meat” and alternative food development. In an interview with Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays, Kester reported that it is an issue the beef industry has been monitoring for well over a year now and is pleased to see the progress that has been made between the USDA and FDA – both agreeing to share jurisdiction over the product’s regulatory oversight.
 
“We’ve got a gentlemen’s agreement between the FDA and USDA on regulatory oversight and the FDA will handle the pre-market ingredients, analysis, etc. USDA will be responsible for the marketing and labeling claims which is good because under USDA rules, all those marketing and labelling claims have to be pre-approved before those products hit the market.”
 
In addition, USDA has also insisted its inspection service handle the product’s day-to-day food safety inspection process. All these parameters put together equates a big win for the beef industry, Kester says, who insists that while the beef industry welcomes competition in the marketplace – they do expect the playing field to be level and fair. He says that the progress made thus far is a good start, but adds that more can be and will be done to protect the image of “beef” and “meat” once further information is available on “fake meat” products, which have yet to make a commercial debut.
 
“We’re kind of in a holding pattern in that aspect of it because these products in the lab are still under research and development and under the cloud of that proprietary information,” Kester said. “So, we’ve got to wait until those processes get more defined and then we can go after the more definitive labelling once we actually know what those products are.”
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