A new farm bill is facing opposition from a growing industry of artificial meat, which is employing many lobbyists to try to persuade lawmakers to give more government funding to this new industry.
As Politico reports, the market for “meat” grown in a lab is limited, with such food only being available at niche restaurants in San Francisco, California and Washington, D.C. But these companies are now employing a coalition of lobbyists and trade groups, as well as a new spending campaign, as Congress begins negotiations for the 2023 farm appropriations bill.
One such company is Eat Just, producer of one of only two artificial meat products that was approved by regulators for public distribution earlier this year. Eat Just’s CEO, Josh Tetrik, said in a statement that “some country is going to decide to lead the way in creating alternative proteins and creating meat and egg and dairy from plants and precision fermentation and through cultivating cells. We need to ask ourselves whether we want to be buying food from some other country decades from now or would we rather just produce it ourselves.”
The fake meat in question is concocted in laboratories, which the companies prefer to describe as “cell-cultivated” or “cell-based.” The substance is created through a combination of cells drawn from live animals, nutrient mixtures of protein and vitamins, and ultimately brewed in large vats.
Advocates claim that this new substance can make up for certain gaps in the supply chain and provide relief for a strained agriculture industry. Critics denounce the artificial nature of the product, which is not an adequate substitute for real meat.
Such a farm bill is only passed by Congress every five years. The previous bill passed in 2018 when the artificial meat business was still small, with only two companies hiring lobbyists from K Street that year. A new trade group has since been formed to represent the industry: the Association for Meat, Poultry and Seafood Innovation. In addition, the industry has created a nonprofit group, Food Solutions Action, to appeal directly to lawmakers.
Advocates say that the technology does not yet exist to produce such fraudulent meat on a large enough scale for mass consumption, thus necessitating the demands for funding from the Department of Agriculture.
“It’s a huge technological challenge. It’s a huge engineering challenge. It’s very capital intensive,” said Andrew Noyes, the head of global communications at Good Meat, another company that specializes in artificial meat. “When it comes to the farm bill, [we’re exploring] whether there are existing programs that help with loan guarantees, that we can potentially, as an industry, leverage to be able to do some of that commercialization work with our vessels and our very expensive manufacturing processes.”