Cultivated meat officially entered the U.S. market in June thanks to the USDA and FDA’s grants of approval to Upside Foods and Eat Just , as the nascent industry is regulated by both the USDA and the FDA. Since then, consumer interest has been piqued but many hurdles lay ahead.
Cost, scale and winning over the consumer still remain major challenges to the industry, which has grown from an ecosystem of a few players to now about 150 companies.
Regulatory clarity well-received
The USDA and FSIS announced new directives, which addressed the inspection, sampling and responsibilities of establishments producing cell-cultured meat, and as a result, provided clarity into how these organizations planned to execute its regulatory obligations in this space.
Brian Sylvester and Tommy Tobin are both attorneys at the firm Perkins Coie within its consumer products & services litigation practice group and food & beverage industry group. Both Sylvester and Tobin see the new regulatory guidance as a “helpful and welcome resource,” they said in a written response to questions. “Regulatory certainty and clarity facilitate innovation.”
However, we are far away from seeing cultivated meat at the grocery store.
“Any company making cultivated meat and poultry products subject to USDA-FSIS oversight must obtain both a federal grant of inspection and label approval from USDA-FSIS prior to being able to lawfully market these products in the U.S,” said Sylvester and Tobin, and right now, only two companies have done so — Upside Foods and Eat Just.
In Switzerland, Aleph Farms was the first ever company to submit an application for European regulatory approval in late July. The Israeli cellular agriculture company has a partnership with Marcus Samuelsson, an award-winning chef, restaurateur, author and TV personality that sets the company up for a US partnership with a major chef when and if the company gets full approval here.
The current directives from the USDA-FSIS put the products on the same playing field as their animal-based products counterparts, according to Sylvester and Tobin.
In terms of labeling rules, much is still unknown, according to the attorneys.
“It remains to be seen how labeling oversight will play out moving forward, with both new USDA labeling requirements to come and activity at the state level as these products move to market,” they said.
Winning over the consumer
Beyond regulatory headaches, the cultivated meat industry also must win over the consumer — which is no easy feat. Reports have shown that consumers have a very limited understanding of what cell-cultured meat products actually are, leading to companies needing to focus on consumer education along with regulatory issues as well.
“In light of a ballooning global population, cultivated meat start-ups are seeking to solve for issues like food security and to find ways to produce food in sustainable ways,” said Sylvester and Tobin
A big part of achieving the industry’s goals, will be other global organizations and regulators coming forward with messages of clarity.
“The World Health Organization and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization are playing key roles in this regard through various recent publications and stakeholder meetings.”