House Representatives Reintroduce Bill to Ban Federal Funding of Cultivated Meat

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A group of lawmakers have reintroduced the REAL Meat Act, this time targeting federal investment in the cultivated meat industry.

In the House Representatives, a group of politicians have co-sponsored a bill that would prohibit the US government from investing in cultivated meat.

It is the latest version of the Real Marketing Edible Artificials Truthfully Act – or the REAL Meat Act – which has been introduced by Ohio representative Warren Davidson.

The draft legislation targets cultivated meat, specifically federal support of these proteins. “Fake cell-cultured meat not only poses a health risk to the human body, but it also threatens the livelihoods of America’s hard-working ranchers, livestock farmers, and butchers,” Davidson said in a statement, invoking a familiar rhetoric and escalating the misinformation about the health credentials of cultivated meat.

“Congress must act to ensure US taxpayers are not footing the bill for this inferior, experimental product,” he added.

Bill would prohibit low-income families from accessing cultivated meat

real meat act
Courtesy: John Minchillo/AP

The REAL Meat Act was first introduced in 2019 by Nebraska senator Deb Fischer, which aimed to mandate the use of the word ‘imitation’ on plant-based meat labels, alongside a statement that indicated the products don’t contain meat. A companion bill was brought in the House by Kansas’s Roger Marshall.

Those bills went nowhere, but the act was reintroduced by Fischer last year. It has since been read twice by the Senate and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Now, Davidson has reintroduced the Real Meat Act in the House, which is controlled by the Republican Party. HR 8757 is supported by eight other lawmakers in the House, all of whom belong to the GOP: Kevin Hern, Matt Rosendale, Greg Steube, Harriet Hageman, Jim Baird, Ronny Jackson, Thomas Massie and Keith Self.

The bill aims to prohibit federal funding for the research and advancement, promotion, advertisement, and production of cultivated meat. If passed, the legislation would also prevent these foods from being part of federal nutrition programmes like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for low-income families.

The REAL Meat Act of 2024 has been referred to the House Committee on Agriculture now. It is reminiscent of the Fair and Accurate Ingredient Representation on Labels Act introduced by Marshall earlier this year, which seeks to restrict how alternative protein products are labelled.

Cultivated meat in the election-year culture wars

florida cultivated meat
Courtesy: UPSIDE Foods/Canva AI

Davidson’s bill is the latest in a series of legislations and proposals designed to curtail the progress of cultivated meat in the US, which was approved for sale last year after rigorous food safety testing by the FDA and the USDA.

Only last month, Florida became the first state to ban the production and sale of cultivated meat within its borders, a move that was swiftly followed by Alabama a week later. Similar proposals are being debated in Arizona, Wisconsin, Texas, Nebraska and Tennessee.

The general messaging around most of these bills has been one of protecting farmers, though it really serves to protect the interests of the industrial meat sector. It is smallholder farmers that stand to face the most severe impacts of climate change, a global issue foods like cultivated meat – whose emissions, water consumption and land use are fractional compared to conventional meat – are trying to curtail.

These attacks against cultivated meat have ramped up over the last few months, and the timing doesn’t feel coincidental. We’re just over four months from the national election, and alternative protein has become part of the culture wars in American political discourse. The rhetoric surrounding cultivated meat builds on the fact that 15% of US citizens don’t believe climate change is real, and that 74% don’t associate meat with global heating.

The White House has been supportive of cultivated meat. The Biden-Harris administration signed an executive order in 2022 to promote biomanufacturing and biotech, which involved “cultivating alternative food sources”. And last year, alternative proteins were included in chapters from the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Energy in a national biotech report. The USDA, meanwhile, poured in $10M in grants to open the National Institute of Cellular Agriculture at Tufts University.

Even the meat industry has been against bans like the ones issued by Florida and Alabama. The North American Meat Institute, the country’s oldest and largest trade association (representing 95% of the US’s meat output, has argued that such legislation “limits consumer choice” and denies people “access to food options”.

“Some of America’s largest meat companies have been early investors in cultivated meat,” Sean Edgett, chief legal officer at Upside Foods – one of two companies who have commercialised cultivated chicken in the US – told Green Queen after Florida’s ban, calling it a “protectionist policy for entrenched interests” that “violates free market principles and limits consumer choice”.

He suggested Florida’s bill “ignores food safety experts and science, stifles consumer choice, and hinders American innovation”. The same could be said of the REAL Meat Act.


  • Anay Mridul

    Anay is Green Queen's resident news reporter. Originally from India, he worked as a vegan food writer and editor in London, and is now travelling and reporting from across Asia. He's passionate about coffee, plant-based milk, cooking, eating, veganism, food tech, writing about all that, profiling people, and the Oxford comma.

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