CRS Overview of Cell-Cultivated Meat Includes Policy Considerations for Congress
On September 19, 2023, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) published a report providing an overview of cell-cultivated meat. The report provides an overview of the science of cell-cultivated meat, the industry, the regulatory framework for cell-cultivated meat products, congressional interests, and potential policy considerations. CRS states that cell-cultivated meat is developed in a lab, grown from a sample of animal cells that does not require the slaughter of animals. Developing cell-cultivated meat involves five steps: (1) taking a biopsy of animal cells; (2) cell banking; (3) cell growth; (4) harvesting; and (5) food processing. The report notes that in March 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a joint formal agreement outlining each agency’s regulatory roles. As outlined in the agreement, FDA and USDA jointly regulate cell-cultivated meat products based on their food safety authorities. FDA regulates the cell development process of cell-cultivated meat production, and USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) takes over during the food processing stage, when the cells are turned into meat and poultry products. FDA is responsible for overseeing both the cell development process and food processing for cell-cultivated seafood.
The report states that Congress may or may not take further action concerning cell-cultivated meat products. If Congress chooses to act, the report outlines the following policy issues:
- Labeling: In June 2023, FSIS took the first step in approving a label to be used to describe cell-cultivated meat products sold in the United States. FSIS stated that UPSIDE Foods and GOOD Meat can produce and sell products labeled as cell-cultivated chicken. The report notes that some state laws prohibit the use of meat terms on labels for cultivated meat products. According to the report, Congress could provide guidance to FSIS on how cell-cultivated meat labels issued at the federal level should interact with state laws governing the labeling of cell-cultivated meat products.
- Research: According to the report, researchers have identified obstacles for effectively scaling up production in the cell-cultivated meat industry: the high price and limited supply of growth medium, and the reduced effectiveness of bioreactors as they work with more cells. The report states that Congress could prioritize funding for National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) research grant programs for projects that focus on overcoming the obstacles facing the cell-cultivated meat industry in scaling up production. Alternatively, the report notes that Congress may choose to pass legislation to prohibit funding of cell-cultivated meat research, similar to the proposed amendments to the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2024 (H.R. 4368). If that prohibition were established in law, then Congress would be unable to prioritize funding for cell-cultivated meat research through NSF and NIFA research grant programs.
- Setting International Standards: The report notes that cell-cultivated meat products are relatively new and that worldwide standards and regulations for these products have not been established. The report suggests that Congress could encourage the U.S. Codex Office, under administration of the USDA Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Office, to develop jointly voluntary international food standards, guidelines, and codes of practice for cell-cultivated meat products under the Codex Alimentarius, a collection of voluntary standards, guidelines, and codes of practices that guide the production, exporting, and importing of food products and agricultural commodities. The U.S. Codex Office works with the commission to develop recommendations, helping to foster harmonization of global food standards and ensure fair trade standards.