Food Freedom

More States Are Considering Lab-Grown Meat Restrictions

Cultivated meat is under scrutiny from politicians trying to protect livestock farmers.


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Lab-grown meat is a scientific marvel. We've managed, through pure human ingenuity, to create something that looks like meat, cooks like meat, tastes pretty much like meat, and comes from animal cells—yet doesn't require the slaughter of a single living animal.

But state legislatures across the country are thinking of following in Alabama's footsteps and banning lab-grown meat (also known as "cultivated meat").

In March, Alabama legislators passed a bill banning the sale or development of lab-grown meat in the state. Italy's parliament passed a ban on cultivated meat last year, citing the need to protect farmers from competition. ArizonaFlorida, and Tennessee also seem poised to ban the product, with cultivated meat bans working through their state legislatures as of mid-March. In Congress, senators have introduced a bipartisan bill that would keep lab-grown meat from being served in public school cafeterias.

"These misguided and short-sighted bills will kill innovation in a vital and growing biotech sector," says David Voorman, a vice president at Food Solutions Action, a meat-alternative political action committee. "Consumer freedom, consumer choice, and free market principles are also lost when lawmakers decide they know what's best."

The main reasons for the rush to ban lab-grown meat? One is an overwrought concern about competition for farmers. In fact, after a limited restaurant-based launch in early 2023, cultivated meat is no longer available anywhere in the United States. But that hasn't kept some politicians from jumping to ban it.

"We're going to have fake meat? That doesn't work." Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a February press conference. "There's a whole ideological agenda that's coming after, I think, a lot of important parts of our society."

Another reason comes down to a misunderstanding of how cultivated meat is made.

"I watch all the chemicals that are put in meats today, and everything else," Jack Williams, an Alabama state senator who sponsored the state's ban, told local news station NBC 15. "The people I represent, we don't want this meat coming to Alabama and being in our stores."

"Cultivated meat is bio-identical to farmed, slaughtered meat in all of the ways that matter," Voorman says. "We've seen a troubling rise in state lawmakers attacking the cultivated meat industry under the false premise of safety concerns, but consumers see these bills for what they really are…protectionist measures that needlessly impede food innovation."

Illustration: iStock
(Illustration: iStock)

Places where the sale or development of lab-grown meat is banned as of March 2024:

  • Italy

Places where bans are under consideration:

  • Alabama*
  • Arizona
  • Florida
  • Tennessee (only a ban on selling the product)
  • U.S. public school cafeterias

CORRECTION: A previous version of this piece misstated how many places had banned lab-grown meat as of March 2024.