The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association CEO says when it comes to cell-based proteins, beef producers want market fairness.
“This is not necessarily about being afraid of cell-based protein, but it is making sure they have to follow the same rules we do. And that is why the announcement from USDA, that a certificate of inspection had been provided for this cell-based chicken product, was actually a win for us.”
NCBA CEO Colin Woodall says cell-based protein producers want to be under the authority of the Food and Drug Administration, not the Department of Agriculture.
“If you are a food manufacturer that has FDA inspection, you might be inspected once a week or maybe once a year based upon your risk assessment. That is unacceptable for somebody that is going to be in supposedly the meat or protein business because we have to be inspected every single day. So, we did lead a coalition several years ago that got the USDA inspection, so that’s a win.”
Now, Woodall says NCBA’s focus is making sure the label is clear to the consumer on what they are actually buying, looking at things such as lab-grown, cell-cultured and synthetic.
“We have to be very careful here that whatever we come up with, there is not a loophole, like so many times you find in federal regulations, that they can circumvent it and come up with something like ‘slaughter-free beef,’ That just makes things even harder. So, we’re spending a lot of time really trying to work on those sideboards. And we are going to do this through legislation because this administration is not going to tackle this issue, so it’s going to take legislation, and we do have bipartisan support on the hill to help us with this.”
Woodall emphasized that NCBA is not critical of cell-based products on the market but instead is concerned with confusion about the labeling aspect.
“We need to be careful on what we want to say about somebody’s ability to enter some sort of market because that can and will be used against us in the future. The biggest burden is on us in continuing to promote our product. We are the preferred protein, I believe we are going to remain the preferred protein, but the way we do that is to make sure that everything on that label is clear to the consumer.”
Woodall adds the introduction of cell-based proteins on the market gives the beef industry a great opportunity to showcase all of the great attributes of beef the way God intended it.