Food Freedom

Alabama Governor Signs Bill Banning Lab-Grown Meat

Lab-grown meat bans don't protect consumers, but they do protect ranchers and farmers from competition.


Last week, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) signed a bill banning the sale or cultivation of lab-grown meat in the state, making Alabama the second state to formally ban the product. Alabama is one of a handful of states whose legislatures have considered bans on cultivated meat in recent months—even though lab-grown meat is no longer sold anywhere in the United States.

Lab-grown meat, also known as cultivated meat, was first sold in the U.S. in 2023 after the Food and Drug Administration approved two brands of cultivated chicken as safe to eat. So far, lab-grown meat has been briefly available through small-scale, restaurant-based launches.

However, that hasn't stopped lab-grown meat from becoming a culture-war hot topic. Alabama started the trend, with the state's Senate passing a ban in February. In May, Gov. Ron DeSantis banned the product in Florida. A handful of states, including Tennessee and Arizona, are also considering bans on lab-grown meat.

Alabama's law makes it "unlawful for any person to manufacture, sell, hold or offer for sale, or distribute any cultivated food product" in the state. Violators face stiff penalties—businesses risk losing their food safety permits, and individuals can face a $500 fine and up to three months behind bars.

Why are lab-grown meat bans suddenly so popular? A lot of it comes down to a fear of competition mixed with easy culture-war fearmongering about meat alternatives. Cultivated meat presents a clear alternative to traditional meat products—but instead of being excited by this new innovation, politicians like DeSantis and Sen. John Fetterman (D–Pa.) are seeking to quash this new possibility in order to protect the meat industry. 

"We must protect our incredible farmers and the integrity of American agriculture," Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Wilton Simpson said in a press release announcing the signing of the state's ban. "Lab-grown meat is a disgraceful attempt to undermine our proud traditions and prosperity, and is in direct opposition to authentic agriculture."

Instead of letting individuals decide what to eat for themselves, politicians in Florida and Alabama are restricting their freedom—and the only people they're protecting are the state's meat producers.

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