Selling Lab-Grown Meat in Alabama Could Land You in Jail | Totally Vegan Buzz

Selling Lab-Grown Meat in Alabama Could Land You in Jail

Creator: Firn | Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

In a move that has stirred significant controversy, Alabama has become the second state in the United States to implement a ban on cultivated meat, following in the footsteps of Florida. Governor Kay Ivey signed the new law, sparking a debate between traditional agricultural interests and advocates of innovative food technologies.

Cell-cultivated meat is not the same as the products from companies like Impossible Foods, which use plants to mimic meat-like flavors and texture. Instead, this kind of meat actually comes from animal cells and is made in a lab without harming any animals.

Uncooked lab-grown chicken breast made by a California company. Credit: Peter DaSilva/Reuters

What is Cultured Meat?

Lab-grown or cultured meat, also known as cultivated meat, is produced by culturing animal cells directly in a lab. This method aims to replicate the taste and texture of traditional meat, offering a solution for animal cruelty and environmental concerns associated with conventional livestock farming.

How is Cultured Meat Made?

  • Cell Collection: The process begins with collecting cells from a donor animal, such as muscle cells or specific stem cells.
  • Growth Medium: The cells are then placed in a nutrient-rich growth medium containing amino acids, sugars, trace elements, and vitamins.
  • Bioreactor: These cells are transferred to a bioreactor, a controlled environment that supports their growth by mimicking natural conditions.
  • Harvesting: Once the cells have developed into muscle tissues, the meat is harvested and processed similarly to traditional meat.

Proponents argue that along with eliminating animal cruelty, it offers a sustainable solution to many environmental issues associated with conventional meat production, such as land degradation, high water usage, and greenhouse gas emissions.

A piece of GOOD Meat’s cell-cultivated chicken cooks on a grill at the company’s California office in July 2023.
 Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

However, the bill, signed into law by Governor Kay Ivey on May 7, will make it illegal for anyone to manufacture, sell, or distribute cultivated meat in Alabama. Violations of the ban are classified as a class C misdemeanor, potentially leading to up to a three-month jail sentence and a fine of $500. This legislative action is presented by its supporters as a necessary measure to ensure food transparency and protect consumers from potentially misleading practices.

The law does, however, allow certain exemptions. Cultivated meat can still be used within educational and governmental research settings, suggesting some recognition of its scientific and potential value.

Earlier in May, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis approved a law that bans cultivated meat, making Florida the first state in the US to implement such a ban. U.S. Senator John Fetterman supported this decision, stating on social media, “as some dude who would never serve that slop to my kids, I stand with our American ranchers and farmers.”

This action follows a similar ban in Alabama, affecting roughly 28 million Americans. Cultivated meat, which is grown from real animal cells without slaughtering animals, is currently permitted for sale by only two companies in the U.S., but none is available in restaurants yet.

The law’s critics, including Pepin Andrew Tuma from the Good Food Institute, argue that such restrictions “trample on consumer choice and criminalize agricultural innovation,” undermining free market principles at a time when sustainability is more crucial than ever.

Adding to the discourse, Justin Kolbeck, CEO of Wildtype, a cultivated seafood firm, emphasizes the law’s impact on consumer freedom, stating, “Alabama’s decision to strip its citizens of their right to decide what they can eat erodes freedom at an important moment.” He contrasts the risks of cultivated meat with those of consuming fish contaminated by pollution, questioning the priorities demonstrated by the state’s legislation.

The bill, which saw strong passage through Alabama’s legislature, passing the Alabama House with 85 votes for and 14 against, and the Senate with 32 votes for and none against, has been supported by groups with historical opposition to progressive health measures, labeling cultivated meat as “franken-meat” and urging citizens to back traditional meat production.

Critics like Sean Edgett from Upside Foods argue that such legislation “ignores food safety experts and science,” and is more about protecting entrenched agricultural interests than consumer welfare. This sentiment is echoed by those who see the potential for cultivated meat to reduce the environmental degradation and animal cruelty associated with traditional meat farming.

“This legislation has always been about one thing—helping one industry, ‘Big Ag,’ avoid accountability and competition,” wrote Carrie Kabat at Eat Just, one of the two US companies cleared to sell cultivated meat.

Earlier this year, Arizona lawmakers proposed a ban similar to Alabama’s, with a Republican supporter stating their intent to “protect our cattle and our ranches.” Notably, one of the proposal’s backers is a rancher himself. In other states like West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee, there’s also movement toward similar bans, where breaking such a law could result in a hefty $1 million fine.

As Alabama sets its course, the dialogue around food technology, consumer choice, and sustainability continues to evolve. With the law set to take effect in October 2024, its implications for future food innovations and environmental impacts remain a hot topic for debate among policymakers, industry stakeholders, and consumers alike.

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Published by Totally Vegan Buzz Team

The Totally Vegan Buzz Team are a gang of extremely entertaining writers who also happen to be vegan. Together, they bring you all the vegan infotainment you need - trends, news, quizzes and more. Leave them a comment! They love it when you guys say hi...



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