First blow in ‘fake meat’ battle

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SAMPLE: Battle looms over the definition of meat. (Photo: The Conversation)

THE first shots have been fired in the battle over fake meat.

The United States Cattle-men’s Association (USCA) started the skirmish with a petition to the US Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) requesting accurate beef labelling requirements to better inform consumers on the difference between beef products derived from cattle and those created in a laboratory.

USCA President Kenny Graner says accurate labeling of US beef products has always been a number one priority for the association and consumers depend upon FSIS to ensure the products they purchase at the grocery store match their label descriptions.

To be labelled as beef and meat, the USCA says, the product should be derived from the tissue or flesh of animals that have been harvested in the traditional manner.

“We look forward to working with the agency to rectify the misleading labeling of ‘beef’ products that are made with plant or insect protein or grown in a petri dish,” Graner says in a statement.

“US cattle producers take pride in developing the highest quality, and safest, beef in the world, and labels must clearly distinguish that difference.”

But a coalition of plant-based and lab-cultured meat companies volleyed back, saying beef producers are more concerned about competition than consumers.

“Both the plant-based and the clean meat from animal cells directly compete, or will soon directly compete, against actual beef products that are born, raised and harvested in the traditional manner,” it says in a statement.

The coalition says the USCA’s proposal asks FSIS to go beyond its statutory authority as it can only use its labelling authourity to protect consumers – it cannot preference some companies over others.

It says the proposal also violates the American First Amendment, which protects the speech of plant-based and clean meat companies.

“As long as consumers are not misled, they have a free speech right to call their products what they are,” the coalition argues.

There is no such concern in France, where the French parliament voted to ban producers from labelling vegetarian-based products as meat.

There’s another food battle simmering in the US, this time over the definition of milk.

Traditional producers want the name “milk” restricted to product derived from ruminants such as cows and goats.

They say liquid products made from almonds, soy, hemp milk, flax, hazelnut, oats and cashew, now sold in the dairy aisle, should not be allowed to be called milk.

Meantime, Ass Prof Jin-Kyu Rhee of Ewha Womans University in South Korea tells the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology annual meeting San Diego of using 3-D printing to create food.

“We built a platform that uses 3-D printing to create food microstructures that allow food texture and body absorption to be customised on a personal level,” Rhee said. “We think that one day, people could have cartridges that contain powdered versions of various ingredients that would be put together using 3-D printing.

“We are only in early stages, but we believe our research will move 3-D food printing to the next level.”

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