75% of cell-based meat companies prefer the term ‘cultivated’ for their products

Dive Brief:

  • Three-quarters of all companies that make meat from animal cells prefer to call their products “cultivated meat,” according to a survey conducted by the Good Food Institute last month. The second most popular option was “cultured meat,” preferred by 20%. Only one company preferred “cell-based meat.” The advocacy group polled 44 companies in the space and GFI Founder and CEO Bruce Friedrich wrote up the findings in a blog post.
  • Previous studies conducted by Mattson with GFI and Rutgers University with cell-based seafood company BlueNalu have found that consumers also prefer the term “cultivated” when referring to this space. Focus groups found consumers associate “cultivated” with farming, naturalness and caring.
  • What to call this category of meat is currently being considered by the USDA and FDA, both of which have regulatory authority over portions of the nascent segment. In early September, USDA opened a docket seeking comments about labeling and standards of identity for cell-based meat. FDA issued a similar request for information about cell-based seafood labeling last October.

Dive Insight:

The Good Food Institute has been using “cultivated meat” as its preferred way to refer to the segment since it worked with Mattson two years ago on determining which term would lead to the most consumer acceptance.

Although right now this segment has few products and limited consumer contact, there have been recent significant shifts in what it’s been called. “Clean meat” was once widely used by those in the space, but it became less popular because it seems to imply meat from animals is dirty. It also had been previously referred to as “lab-grown meat,” but companies in the segment pushed back against that because it makes products sound like a science experiment.

The 2019 Mattson study found that consumers tended to see “cell-based” as the most scientific-sounding name. Friedrich’s blog also points out that it isn’t really a differentiating term, since meat that comes from animals is also cell-based. “Cultured” also has its own meaning in food, commonly referring to processes where items are salted or aged.

“Cultivated meat is a bit friendlier, foodier, translates into some of our key European languages, and signals a bit more of the caring/precarious process needed to keep cells happy,” Tim van de Rijdt, chief business officer at Mosa Meat and president of Cellular Agriculture Europe, says in a quote on the blog. The term has been preferred by the 13 members of the European group promoting the cell-based industry that he leads.

Without federal regulations that prescribe the way these products need to be labeled, it makes sense for different players in the industry to coalesce around terminology. Agreeing on a naming standard promotes unity and decreases the likelihood of consumer confusion around the space.

But unlike some high-tech food products, meat grown from cells will definitely be subject to strict regulations around product labeling. While U.S. regulators are no doubt willing to listen to all preferences on what to call these products, and the consensus opinion of manufacturers in the space will carry some weight, regulators still may choose to call them something different than “cultivated meat.” As of Thursday night, 415 comments offering wildly different viewpoints had been left on the regulatory docket, and there is still more than a month for them to be submitted.

Seafood, which is solely under FDA’s jurisdiction, may see a different labeling scheme as well. While “cultivated” did not perform poorly as a seafood labeling term in the study done by Rutgers and BlueNalu, “cell-based” came out as the preferred term on these products. Some consumers, study author William Hallman found, thought that the term “cultivated seafood” sounded similar to farmed seafood, and was not something made directly from cells. 

Regardless of what U.S. regulators decide, there is also no guarantee that regulators in jurisdictions including Japan, Brazil, Israel and the European Union will adopt similar terminology. While it makes sense for countries to have similar labeling laws in today’s global market, local sentiments may cause some variations, like Europe’s near ban on dairy terminology for plant-based products.

Source: fooddive.com