Clean meat fried chicken
Southern Fried Chicken from Memphis Meats produced using cell cultures

Clearing the regulatory hurdle

Clearing misperceptions about clean meat was the subject of the final panelist’s presentation. Rebecca Cross, an attorney with Davis White Tremaine L.L.P., San Francisco, said clean meat is a food, not a drug or an additive. She said regulators are aware of and ready for clean meat, which will be regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

Still, the potential for regulatory confusion exists, she said. Currently, open-faced sandwiches are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture while closed sandwiches are regulated by the F.D.A. Sausage is regulated by the U.S.D.A., and sausage casing is regulated by the F.D.A. Pizza is regulated by the F.D.A., but pepperoni pizza may be regulated by either.

In the case of clean meat, the F.D.A. is expected to have responsibility given that the U.S.D.A. has oversight where live animals are processed and doesn’t have authority where they are not.

In the questions-and-answers portion of the presentation, the panelists were asked whether the meat industry may challenge the name “clean meat” given its implication that conventional meat is unclean. Dr. Specht said the industry was not yet committed to the name "clean meat" but was anxious to avoid a name that is a turnoff for consumers.

Cultured meat
Consumer studies have shown the term clean meat is more likely to generate trust among consumers.

“This has been a very robust area of discussion within the field, in terms of what do we call it,” she said. “It’s meat, but we want to differentiate because it is really meat plus. A lot of different terms have been used over the years, including some that are automatically cringe-worthy and would not appeal to consumers like ‘lab-grown meat’ or ‘in vitro meat’ or ‘meat 2.0.’ There is certainly a consumer angle. Cultured meat has been used a lot, especially in the food science community.” 

Consumer studies have shown the term "clean meat" is more likely to generate trust among consumers.

“The reasoning behind it is a nod to the concept of clean energy in that this process is cleaner in terms of environmental footprint and cleaner in terms of bacterial contamination,” Dr. Specht said. “So it is clean in a lot of ways.”

Still, Dr. Specht said the field is open to suggestions to other terms that capture the essence of how the product is different from conventional meat.