Exactly what is ‘lab-grown’ meat and why has Florida banned it?

A version of this conversation originally aired on March 19, 2024.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation last week that prohibits the manufacture for sale or distribution, or selling of, cultivated or so-called or “lab-grown” meat in Florida. Now that it’s law, SB 1084 makes it a second-degree misdemeanor to sell or manufacture cultivated meat in the state.

The science behind cell-cultured meats has been around for quite some time, but not in the food science world, but in the world of medicine for creating replacement skin or even body parts. But, over the past decade or so companies have been working to perfect and scale up the ability to create beef, or chicken, or other animal meats in the lab.

And while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved lab-grown meat cultivation in June of last year, and gave approval to two companies — UPSIDE Foods and Good Meat — to make “cell-cultivated” food, it’s far from hitting the grocery store shelves or restaurant plates.

For example, plant-based meat products, like Impossible or Beyond Burgers, have become common in the U.S. marketplace, but they remain a very small percentage of the overall market and cell-cultured meats are way behind them.

To get some context on this new food science industry, and why a state legislature might already be banning it at this stage, I talked back in March with Dr. Jennifer Martin, she’s an Associate Professor in Meat Science and Quality at Colorado State University, and an associate adjunct faculty member in the Colorado School of Public Health’s department of Epidemiology.

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