Urging FSIS Not to Overlook Cultivated Meat in Its Proposed Voluntary Labeling Rule on U.S. Origin Claims


June 9, 2023

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FSIS will release final guidance on its voluntary labeling rule

On June 9, 2023, the Animal Legal Defense Fund submitted comments to the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) urging the agency to include the cultivated meat sector in its proposed rule on voluntary labeling of FSIS-regulated products with United States-origin claims.

The comments note that while well-intentioned, the proposed rule appears to inadvertently overlook the cultivated meat sector to its competitive detriment. Cultivated meat is an emerging direct market competitor to slaughter-based meat. It would be arbitrary and capricious to treat this similarly situated product differently. Rather, the Animal Legal Defense Fund asks FSIS to clarify the proposed rule to explicitly allow cultivated meat products to use this generic approval for U.S.-origin claims when such products are processed in the U.S. The result will be a competitively fair rule that provides consumers with truthful and understandable label information.

Given the benefits and projected growth of cultivated meat, many slaughter-based meat companies are worried about losing consumers as cultivated meat comes to market. In response, meat-industry trade associations have petitioned federal and state regulators to engage in protectionist rulemaking to hinder the growth of cultivated meat and protect their market share from an emerging competitor. It is noted by FSIS that the rulemaking itself is in response to “three petitions from industry associations,” including the Organization for Competitive Markets, the American Grassfed Association, the United States Cattlemen’s Association, and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. The focus of all three industry petitions was to limit U.S.-origin claims such that products made from animals raised outside of the U.S. could no longer be labeled as U.S. origin products. In adopting its proposed language, FSIS appears to have overlooked cultivated meat entirely, writing a rule that could capriciously harm a domestic competitor to slaughter-based meat.

Cultivated meat is similarly situated to slaughter-based meat — in fact, it is biologically indistinguishable — and cultivated meat products do, or will, directly compete with slaughter-based meat. The animal agriculture industry itself views cultivated meat as a direct competitor. As such, FSIS should amend its proposed rule to permit cultivated meat produced in the U.S. to use the generic approval for U.S.-origin product labels.

The FDA issued, for comment, its proposed rule on March 13, 2023.

What action has been taken? The comments were submitted to FSIS urging the agency to include the cultivated meat sector in its proposed rule on voluntary labeling of FSIS-regulated products with U.S.-origin claims.

Why this proposed rule is important: Cultivated meat is biologically indistinguishable from slaughter-based meat and to treat it differently without adequate justification would run afoul of the Administrative Procedure Act. In the proposed rule, the FSIS overlooked cultivated meat in attempting to clarify U.S.-origin label claims. It’s critical that the agency amend the proposed rule to allow cultivated meat products produced in the U.S. to use the generic approval process for U.S.-origin claims.

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