Lab-grown chicken, beef, and duck products are edging toward the U.S. market—despite enduring confusion about how they’ll be regulated. But language buried in a draft spending bill released by a U.S. House of Representatives appropriations panel this week suggests some lawmakers are eager to get rules in place. A one-sentence proposal in the bill would put the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in charge of regulating products made from the cells of livestock or poultry, and instructs the agency to issue rules about how it will oversee their manufacture and labeling.
Unlike plant-based meat imitations already on the market, lab-grown meat—sometimes called clean meat—starts with an animal. Though production methods vary by company, these futuristic foods start with cells extracted from an animal and cultured to develop into strands of muscle tissue fit for frying in a nugget or pressing into a burger patty.
Since the theatrical unveiling of the first lab-grown beef patty in 2013, several companies have waded into the field of “cellular agriculture,” crafting their own meaty prototypes. San Francisco, California–based Memphis Meats has beef, duck, and chicken under development—with investment from (conventional) meat giant Tyson Foods. JUST, also based in San Francisco, has a chicken product based on cells originally isolated from the feather of a chicken (named Ian). Its CEO has announced hopes of having some of its meat products restaurant-ready later this year.