- Some startups aiming to create real meat from animal cells are abandoning the term “clean meat.”
- In a meeting following a conference on alternatives to traditional meat, CEOs and representatives from those companies decided the term “clean” comes with too much baggage.
- The startups are also working to create an industry trade organisation focused on working more closely with traditional meat companies.
CEOs from a handful of startups working to create meat from animal cells have decided there’s one thing they don’t want their product to be called: clean.
Some startups had been using the term “clean meat” as a moniker for real meat grown in a lab from animal cells. But following a spirited discussion behind closed doors on Friday, the leaders of at least five startups decided that the name comes with too much negative baggage.
Although they’d been using the term “clean” to distinguish themselves from factory-farmed meat and plant-based meat alternatives like the Impossible Burger, the label could imply superiority, or that one method is better than another. That might make it difficult for some of the startups to collaborate with traditional meat companies.
So instead, they’re switching to “cell-based.”
“Cell-based meat is a better label to bring them on board,” Brian Spears, the founder of a cell-based meat startup called New Age Meat, told Business Insider. “We want to make winners instead of losers. Losers will fight you, winners will fight with you.”
It’s a big move for the industry, which has grown from a few small ventures to a significant and organised group of nearly a dozen startups and established companies.
At their meeting, the representatives of these cultured-meat startups also agreed to form an industry trade organisation to represent themselves. They hope the move will allow for better collaboration with traditional meat companies, but have not released any further details on that work.
‘We want to make winners instead of losers’
Deciding what to call meat that doesn’t come from a farm has become tricky business in recent months.
In the past, cultured-meat companies floated the idea of labels emphasising that their products come from labs instead of slaughterhouses. That’s where the word “clean” originated.
Other startups have said their products should simply be called “meat,” because at their core, they are the same as traditional meat.
But traditional meat producers are not fans of those options.
The US Cattlemen’s Association recently filed a petition to the US Department of Agriculture that would limit using the terms “beef” and “meat” to products “born, raised, and harvested in the traditional manner.” In Missouri, that language just became law, meaning that any product made without slaughter couldn’t be called meat.
That underscores the need for a separate label for animal products coming out of startups that don’t rely on farms.
Still, alternatives like “farm-free” don’t work either, some of the CEOs said. That’s because not all traditional meat is produced in factory farms, and because it emphasises what the startups are seeking to avoid, rather than what they aim to represent.
“We’d rather define ourselves by what we are, as opposed to what we are not,” Niya Gupta, the co-founder and CEO of Fork & Goode, a startup aiming to make pork from animal cells, told Business Insider before the closed-door meeting on Friday.
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