Alabama Joins Florida in Banning Lab-Grown Meat

Alabama Joins Florida in Banning Lab-Grown Meat
A dish made with Good Meat's cultivated chicken is displayed at the Eat Just office in Alameda, Calif., on July 27, 2023. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Patricia Tolson

Alabama has joined Florida to become the second state in the United States to ban lab-grown meat.

Alabama’s bill—proposed by Republican Sen. Jack Williams (District 34), vice chair of the Senate Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry Committee—was signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivy on May 7. The measure becomes effective on Oct. 1.
The measure prohibits “the manufacture, sale, or distribution of food products made from cultured animal cells” throughout the state. Violation of the law is a Class C misdemeanor and subject to fines and the suspension or revocation of permits, according to Alabama law. The measure does not preclude any entity from conducting research within the state regarding the production of cultivated food products.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the legislation, SB1084, into law at a ceremony in Wauchula on May 1. The sweeping 81-page agricultural package officially bans “the manufacture for sale, sale, holding or offering for sale, or distribution of cultivated meat” in the Sunshine State.
Mr. DeSantis’s office said in a statement that Florida is “taking action to stop the World Economic Forum’s goal of forcing the world to eat lab-grown meat and insects.”

The World Economic Forum describes insects as “an overlooked source of protein.”

“Take your fake lab-grown meat elsewhere,” he said at the press conference in Wauchula. “We’re not doing that in the state of Florida.”

Mr. DeSantis described the legislation as the state’s effort to push back against the global elites’ plan to force the world to consume “meat grown in a petri dish or bugs to achieve their authoritarian goals.”

Florida ranks ninth for beef cattle production in the United States, according to the most recent update on the Florida Cattle Market.
Alabama ranks 14th in beet cattle numbers, according to the Alabama Cattleman’s Association (ACA).

Erin Beasley, executive vice president of the ACA, said the industry certainly watches as these technologies have come forward. As the products get closer to the marketplace, she noted that public skepticism centers on the unknown safety of the product.

“I think that’s what led Senator Williams to bring forward the legislation as a consumer protection,” she told The Epoch Times.

As a representative of the cattle industry, she said they had already tackled the labeling aspect.

While most states adhere to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules for food packaging, Alabama requires food manufacturers “to clearly label any potential allergens present in their products,” something studies have shown exists in bioengineered foods.

“This is just taking it one step further,” Ms. Beasley said.

As Ms. Beasley explained, the only form of cultured meat currently available is “similar to chicken.” However, technology moves fast, and she knows beef will soon follow.

“It was a sigh of relief” when the legislation passed, she added.

Ultimately, her concern is that consumers will go to a grocery store and think they’re buying real beef only to find out it was “grown in a Petri dish in a laboratory.”

Ms. Beasley is glad Alabama followed Florida’s lead and suspects other states will follow as they, too, feel a need to “put up a shield of protection” around their citizens.

“It wouldn’t surprise me to continue to see other states pass legislation similar to what was passed by Alabama and Florida,” she said.

The Facts

Only two countries—the United States and Singapore—have approved cultivated meat for human consumption.

Only two companies—Good Meat and Upside Foods—have been approved by the FDA to produce and sell lab-grown chicken.

The global lab-grown meat market is predicted to reach nearly $2 billion by 2035.

Advocates of lab-grown meat argue that the process is a more humane alternative to conventional cattle farming.

Nicolas Treich, an associate researcher at France’s National Institute for Agriculture, Nutrition, and the Environment and a member of the Toulouse School of Economics at the Toulouse Capitole University, published a report saying there are “important moral concerns due to the treatment of farm animals.”

Mr. Treich said animal sciences have increasingly acknowledged “the emotional and cognitive abilities of animals, including those of farm animals.”

“[Lab-grown meat] provides a serious, perhaps the most serious, alternative to be able to significantly reduce the deleterious impacts of meat production and consumption,” he writes.

However, Jaydee Hanson, policy director at the Center for Food Safety (CFS), contends that the lab-grown meat process is far from cruelty-free.

CFS is a Washington-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit advocacy organization that supports farmers and protects the earth from the harmful impacts of industrial agriculture through scientific and legal challenges.

Lab-grown meat is created in a laboratory by taking stem cells from an animal and placing them in tanks called bioreactors full of a culture medium that enables them to multiply.

Producers extract animal cells, typically muscle cells, from living animals via biopsy, a painful procedure that requires the use of large needles. Growing those animal cells requires a growth medium.

Many companies use fetal bovine serum (FBS) as the growth medium. FBS is extracted from the body of an unborn calf of a mother cow after it has been slaughtered, as disclosed by SAFE, a New Zealand-based nonprofit dedicated to the prevention of animal cruelty and exploitation.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, in collaboration with the World Health Organization, has produced a publication, “Food Safety Aspects of Cell-Based Foods.” Among other revelations, the 134-page document discloses there are 53 potential sources of hazards—including heavy metals, chemical contaminants, microplastics, nanoplastics, and allergens such as additives to improve the taste and texture of these products—that can cause negative health consequences.
Advocates like Green Matters and World Animal Protection also claim that fake meat would be a more environmentally friendly alternative to conventional cattle farming because it would eliminate the production of methane produced by cow flatulence.
However, a study by Oxford University confirmed that the energy-intensive production of lab-grown meat in bioreactors could have far worse long-term environmental consequences than livestock farming.
A study by the University of California, Davis also noted that methane is part of an important natural cycle called the biogenic carbon cycle, which is necessary for plants to grow.
The American Cancer Society has admitted that bioengineered foods can trigger reactions in people with allergies.
Dr. Syed Haider told The Epoch Times in an October 2023 interview that bioengineered food itself could be “toxic,” saying evidence already suggests that it promotes antibiotic resistance, triggers immunosuppression, and even causes cancer.

There is also the supply issue.

A study published in the Food Science of Animal Resources journal revealed that the largest bioreactor available today for the production of cultured meat can only produce about 25,600 kilograms of meat, or 56,438 pounds per year, enough to feed approximately 2,560 people.
This output level assumes that there is no loss of product during the production process. While only about 4 percent of the U.S. population identifies as vegetarian and just 1 percent identify as vegan, according to a Gallup survey, an estimated 334 million people live in the United States. Producing enough cultured meat to feed them would require the construction of around 130,469 bioreactors.
A study published in the Journal of Agriculture estimated that the operating costs per year for a cell-based meat production plant utilizing around four bioreactors would run approximately $25.5 million per year, with an additional $35 million in fixed costs. That estimated yearly cost of $60.5 million to produce the product translates into a cost of around $100 per pound to consumers.

‘We’re Concerned’

Mr. Hanson told The Epoch Times the CFS has been monitoring what the FDA and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) have been doing on cell-based cultures of meat substitutes for several years. While CFS has several objections to what the FDA has approved, it is also waiting to see how the USDA decides to label this cultured meat product.

“We’re concerned that they aren’t doing what they need to be doing at the FDA,” he said.

He noted that most of the companies are using bovine fetal serum as the culture for growing this meat and that the “meat” fibers are then spun by a 3-D printer using pig-derived gelatin to mimic the texture of muscle fibers in real meat. This can be a cause of religious concern for Hindus, who are not allowed to consume beef, and Muslims, who are forbidden to consume products derived from pigs.

“There are companies that don’t use fetal serum to grow these cells,” he noted. “But they are using an engineering technique called CRISPR to make the cells.”

CRISPR, or clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat, and its associated protein (Cas-9) is described in a study published in Biologics in August 2021 as “the most effective, efficient, and accurate method of genome editing tool in all living cells.”

“Genome editing,” the study explains, “is a type of genetic engineering in which DNA is deliberately inserted, removed, or modified in living cells.”

“They use CRISPR to make the cells pluripotent, like fetal cells,” Mr. Hanson explained, adding that “what we know about pluripotent cells is that to make them function that way, the genetic engineers typically use oncogenes, which are cells that cause cancer.”

Pluripotent cells, as defined by Biology Online, are embryonic stem cells that have a limitless ability to divide, self-renew, and transform into cells such as mesoderm, which form blood, muscles, and bones.
A study discussing the connection between oncogenesis and induced pluripotency was published in the Contemporary Oncology Journal in 2015.

Mr. Hanson said the challenge in making cell lines reproduce in a bioreactor is that this replication of cells is a characteristic of cancer cells.

“We don’t think that the FDA should approve fetal bovine serum to grow these cells, and they should not approve of something that makes cells behave like cancer cells,” he asserted, noting that the FDA’s own rules on food content prohibit additives in food products that will cause cancer.

“They need to require these companies to show that their process of making these fake meats don’t cause health problems,” he said.

While encouraged that Florida and Alabama have taken steps to ban fake meat in their states, Mr. Hanson wishes legislators would express equal concern about the potential health risks to their citizens, who might consume the product as they are about protecting their respective chicken and cattle farming industries.

“They need to be looking into how little of this stuff you can consume before it causes problems,” Mr. Hanson said.

In a statement to The Epoch Times, Mr. Ivy’s Communications Director Gina Maiola said, “As this unfamiliar method of food sourcing makes its way into the states, the governor shares the concerns of the supporters of SB23, which is exactly why she has signed it into law.

“She believes this and any new, untested food source must be thoroughly vetted,” Ms. Maiola wrote further, adding, “She will continue closely monitoring this issue and strive to always ensure Alabamians have access to the highest quality food possible.”

Patricia Tolson is an award-winning Epoch Times reporter who covers human interest stories, election policies, education, school boards, and parental rights. Ms. Tolson has 20 years of experience in media and has worked for outlets including Yahoo!, U.S. News, and The Tampa Free Press. Send her your story ideas: [email protected]