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No greeting the meat: Florida bans selling or manufacturing lab-grown meat

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Several states are considering banning cultivated meat products for consumption, but Florida is the first to do it. Here's WFSU's Lynn Hatter in Tallahassee, Fla.

LYNN HATTER, BYLINE: Republican Representative Dean Black says his family has been raising cattle in Florida since the 1800s, and he's not impressed by cultivated meat products.

DEAN BLACK: This is really banning something more akin to Frankenstein meat. It's not only yucky, but it's the stuff of potential dietary nightmares.

HATTER: This year Florida lawmakers approved a wide-ranging measure that, among other things, bans cultivated meat from being sold for consumption in the state. What is cultivated meat? It's meat that's been grown from animal cells in a production facility.

PAUL SHAPIRO: Nobody is arguing that cultivated meat is going to be literally identical to meat from slaughtered animals. That is not necessarily the goal.

HATTER: That's Paul Shapiro. He is the CEO of the Better Meat Company and has authored a book on the future of foods.

SHAPIRO: There are plenty of foods that a member of the Florida State legislature might think they don't want to eat themselves, or they might prefer something else to it.

HATTER: The FDA has authorized two companies to sell lab-grown meat, though Shapiro's is not one of them. Backers of cultivated meat say it can be better for the environment, and without live animals, there is less of a risk of foodborne illness. Critics say it's unnatural and therefore less healthful. So which side is right?

KEN H ROUX: Everything is dependent on how we design the company, how they design these cultivated meat.

HATTER: Ken H. Roux is a food science researcher and professor at Florida State University. He says this kind of meat can actually be produced to include more nutrients, but that might not always be the case. The industry is too new to understand the health drawbacks or benefits of cultivated meat, and other regulatory hurdles remain. It will be a while before lab-grown meat becomes widely available, but the biggest challenge Roux sees to the product is whether people are willing to try it. And several studies suggest people have mixed feelings on that.

ROUX: When I mention this one, after this lecture with my undergrad students, only 50% of my students were willing to try such kind of product.

HATTER: During a recent visit to a local farmer's market in Tallahassee, few people tell me they're willing to give the product to go.

LAVINIA BERGEN: When I think of lab-grown meat, I think of Spam, basically.

HATTER: Lavinia Bergen (ph) is an organic farmer and runs Blue Fish Farms near the Florida-Georgia line. While cultivated meat does not appeal to her, she says she doesn't believe the state should ban it for others.

BERGEN: I think if people want the lab-grown meat, let them try it if they want it, and then let them decide.

KELLY COGSWELL: I think it's a good step in looking out for the people and educating them.

HATTER: Kelly Cogswell's family runs Paradise Found Farms in Tallahassee. The farm raises chickens and turkeys, and Cogswell says he sees Florida's cultivated meat consumption ban as a preventative measure.

COGSWELL: I think that it should get a lot of people's attention and make them pay a little bit more attention to what they're eating and what not only big agriculture but big business, the food industries in general are putting in front of the consumer to eat.

HATTER: Meanwhile, Governor Ron DeSantis has made his position on the debate clear in front of a cheering crowd of farmers seated in a barn.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RON DESANTIS: Take your fake, lab-grown meat elsewhere. We're not doing that in the state of Florida.

(APPLAUSE)

HATTER: Though you probably wouldn't find it on any shelves soon anyway, the new law makes it a second-degree misdemeanor to sell or manufacture cultivated meat in the state. For NPR News, I'm Lynn Hatter in Tallahassee.

(SOUNDBITE OF ADRIAN YOUNGE SONG, "STEP BEYOND") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas. She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. When she’s not working, Lynn spends her time watching sci-fi and action movies, writing her own books, going on long walks through the woods, traveling and exploring antique stores. Follow Lynn Hatter on Twitter: @HatterLynn.