Politics & Law

US Senators Propose Ban on Cell-Cultivated Meat in School Meals

US Senators Mike Rounds and Jon Tester have introduced the “School Lunch Integrity Act of 2024.” This bill seeks to amend nutritional requirements established by the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act and the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 to ban cell-cultivated meat from the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP). 

Since the first cell-cultivated protein product debuted in 2013, the industry has seen rapid growth and investment, with companies like Upside Foods and GOOD Meat emerging as key players in the United States, culminating in FDA and USDA approval last year. The development of these so-called “fake meat” products is aimed at supporting future food security by reducing livestock dependency. However, this growth has sparked controversy, particularly among traditional meat producers.

“This commonsense bill will make sure our schools can serve real meat from our ranchers, not a fake substitute that’s grown in a lab”

Senator Rounds articulated the rationale behind the bill: “Our students should not be test subjects for cell-cultivated ‘meat’ experiments. South Dakota farmers and ranchers work hard to produce high-quality beef products. […] With high quality, local beef readily available for our students, there’s no reason to be serving fake, lab-grown meat products in the cafeteria.”


Opposition from meat producers

Echoing this sentiment, Senator Tester emphasized the quality of Montana’s meat production, advocating for student access to “real meat,” stating, “This commonsense bill will make sure our schools can serve real meat from our ranchers, not a fake substitute that’s grown in a lab.”

This legislation has garnered support from various cattle and livestock associations. Justin Tupper, President of the US Cattlemen’s Association, spoke on the unestablished long-term health effects of cell-cultured foods. Bill Bullard, CEO of R-CALF USA, raised concerns about the safety and healthfulness of cell-cultivated meat, calling the proposal of its inclusion in school meals “bad public policy.”

Similarly, in Florida, a house representative put forward a new bill prohibiting the production, selling, holding, and distributing of cultivated meat. At the same time, Arizona has proposed multiple new legislations that could redefine the legal framework surrounding cultivated meat. Other countries have proposed comparable legal bans to limit the availability of cultivated meat. France and Italy are moving towards bans, calling cultivated meat products “junk food” and “Frankenstein food.” 

Upside foods chicken hot dog

The debate: innovation vs. tradition

There is still a lot of misinformation surrounding cultivated meat and its implications. Some authorities express apprehension about its economic impact, potential public health risks, and the effect on traditional farming communities. Conversely, others cite the importance of supporting innovations in animal protein production methods and the need for sustainable changes to ensure global food security, given the growing world population and the increasing demand for animal proteins. 

Ethan Lane, Vice President of Government Affairs at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, discussed the need for more research on the nutritional and allergenic aspects of lab-grown proteins, stating, “The federal government should not allow lab-grown protein in school lunch and breakfast programs without knowing the long-term health effects on children. School cafeterias are not test labs.”

Find the full bill text here

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