Regulating the Impending Transformation of the Meat Industry: “Cultured Meat”
by Jaden Atkins, J.D. Candidate, Class of 2020, University of Arkansas School of Law
Imagine the ability to create up to 80,000 burgers from one single sample of a cow’s leg and a simple serum. The impacts would all be enormous, from the reduction in land use and resulting environmental impact, to victories for animal rights, to human health impacts. This may sound far-off, but it could soon be our reality. Cell-cultured or simply “cultured” meat is in development and is expected to be widely available in the next few years. While this technology’s potential impacts are incredible, cultured meat challenges our current framework of food regulation, requiring new solutions to old problems.
The FDA and USDA announced in March 2019 that they would share jurisdiction of cultured meat, but they gave very little detail on how this joint regulation will work. This article examines the question: how can our agencies ensure that consumer safety and choice are preserved while still allowing this new technology’s potentially world-changing impacts to come about? I conclude that (1) both the USDA and FDA have statutory authority to claim jurisdiction over cultured meat; (2) the framework proposed by the agencies properly gives the FDA jurisdiction over pre-harvest safety of cell-cultured meats and gives the USDA jurisdiction over post-harvest safety of meats that would normally fall under its jurisdiction because this plays to the strength of both agencies; and (3) for similar reasons, the agencies should also split jurisdiction of labeling such that the FDA determines whether cell-cultured meat fits within a newly defined statement of identity, and the USDA then regulates its labeling as if cultured meat were its traditional counterpart.