Meat and Meat Alternatives RegulationJanuary 18, 2020
As people consume less meat and more meat alternatives, regulators have a role to play in ensuring accurate consumer information and safety.
In 2015, two-thirds of Americans reported reducing meat consumption. Concerns about health and costs of meat ranked among the most common reasons for meat reduction, with environmental and animal cruelty concerns less common. At the same time, meat alternatives are reportedly on the rise. What role do federal regulators play in inspecting and labeling these products?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is tasked with regulating animal meat including pork, beef, and poultry. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates plant-based meat alternatives, such as Impossible Foods. Cell-based meats—cell-cultured products “derived from the cell lines of livestock and poultry”—are jointly regulated by FDA and USDA. These agencies are tasked with a variety of responsibilities including ensuring accurate labeling and safe products.
This week’s Saturday Seminar examines the regulation of meat, as well as regulations for current and future meat alternatives.
- A new rule formalized the first change to swine processing standards in over 50 years, explains a recent essay in The Regulatory Review. For decades, pork processing plant workers slaughtered a maximum of 18 hogs per minute. But USDA issued a new pork processing rule in September 2019, eliminating the 18-hog cap and changing inspection requirements. USDA and industry representatives suggest that the “modernized” swine inspection system is long overdue, and argue that the rule will promote efficiency, lower costs, and allow for further food safety innovation. But critics of the rule, including elected officials, worker safety advocates, agency staff, and consumer safety groups, say the rule puts both public and worker health in danger.
- In a forthcoming Loyola University Chicago Law Journal article, Steph Tai of the University of Wisconsin Law School argues that the battle between livestock-based proteins and emerging protein alternatives is playing out in labeling laws. Tai explains that, “a number of states have recently explored ‘meat labeling’ laws that would restrict the use of the word ‘meat’ to only livestock-based products.” Proponents of the labeling laws express concerns about “consumer confusion,” Tai states. Tai argues, though, that what is really going on is “a battle not for the term ‘meat’ itself, but what ‘meat’ represents to us in our diets.” Tai concludes that participants in the current debates should “understand that legal recognition may not be the only way to access positive values associated with particular categories of foods.”
Meat Alternative Regulations
- In addition to plant and lab-grown meat alternatives, insect-based foods provide another opportunity to satisfy consumers’ tastes. A 2019 essay in The Regulatory Review explores the University of South Carolina…