GLOBAL – The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United nations (FAO) have settled for “Cell-based food” as the term to describe meat that has been produced in the lab.
Defending their preferred name, the two organizations noted that cell-based food was “less confusing, conveniently overarching and generally well-accepted by consumers”, and accurately reflects the science of the product.
In their report, they noted that other popular terms such as “cultured” and “cultivated” can be confusing as they are often used in the aquaculture sector to indicate farmed fish and fisheries.
The term “cellular agriculture” can be considered too general as it may include the topic of plant cell culturing or fermentation, the report noted.
WHO and FAO also deliberately dropped the term “meat” in favor of “food” to make the product easily acceptable across geographies regardless of cultural and religious convictions.
“The use of the term “meat” to refer to a cell-based food product might not be acceptable in all regions and may also complicate halal or kosher labeling,” the report indicated.
Other stakeholders, such as some conventional meat producers, may also object to using the term “meat” in connection with cell-based food for obvious business reasons.
Hybrid products, which include plant-based or other ingredients in varying percentages, also complicate using the term “meat”, and in fact some countries already do not allow using this term for them,” the FAO and WHO report stated.
The Good Food Institute and the APAC Cellular Society for Agriculture (APAC-SCA) are however of a different opinion on how lab-produced meat should be referred to.
GFI and APAC-SCA reached a consensus on “cultivated meat” via an MOU signed in October 2022, involving over 30 food companies in the region.
The MOU recognized cultivated meat as the “most effective at fostering consistently positive responses from consumers.”
It further added that the term was also a scientifically accurate term “that clearly distinguishes foods that are cultivated from animal cells from other existing products in the marketplace.”
Avant Meats’ CEO, Carrie Chan expressed his company’s support for “Cultivated”. He said: “The critique for “cell-based” includes it not being appetizing, and conventional meats are also comprised of cells. “Cultured” can be confused with fermented foods.”
TissenBioFarm’s chief strategy officer, Yeonjoo La, is also of the same opinion. He said: “We used to use cultured meat because, in my opinion, it was easier to understand what it means and easier to pronounce too.”
Despite differing opinions, both global and regional parties acknowledge a convergence or international harmonization for the cultivated meat term, citing reasons related to research progress and consumer education.
“[Technical Panel] experts have suggested to have good studies before considering international harmonization of the terminology.
“Adoption and consistent use of consistent nomenclature across commodities/ species and used by all stakeholders can help consumers better understand the products and processes and can create a common search term that may be used to find more information about them,” the FAO and WHO report stated.