How we describe and market food obviously impacts how appealing it sounds. Honey? Sounds great. Congealed bee spit? Not so much. The vegan food industry has had its own debate over the merits of “plant-based” versus “vegan,” and now a group of lab-grown meat producers have decided that “cell-based,” rather than “clean meat,” is the most appetizing term for their meat-ish product.
Business Insider reports a group of multiple non-traditional meat producers, who create their proteins using lab-grown cultures, decided during a “closed-door meeting” at an industry conference to go with the term “cell-based” to differentiate their meats from plant-based options like Impossible Burger. The Impossible Burger is made from wheat and potatoes and heme, a molecule that imparts the aroma and taste of meat. The lab-grown or “cell-based” meats, on the other hand, are not made of animal cells, but are created in a lab and involve no animal slaughter.
The decision to move away from “clean meat” is, counterintuitively, an overture to the traditional meat industry. Lab-grown meat producers tell Business Insider the “clean” label implied that the cell-based meat was superior or somehow more safe than traditionally farmed meat, putting the two industries at odds.
“Cell-based meat is a better label to bring them on board,” Brian Spears, founder of New Age Meat, told Business Insider. “We want to make winners instead of losers. Losers will fight you, winners will fight with you.”
The olive branch comes at an important time for the meat industry—both lab-grown and traditional—which have unsurprisingly not enjoyed a sunny relationship thus far. The state of Missouri recently banned non-traditional meat companies from using the term “meat”; now, the USDA and FDA are poised to hold public meetings on what role lab-grown meat should play in the American food system.
Does the switch to “cell-based” actually allay ranchers’ and meatpackers’ concerns over non-traditional meat? Probably not. But it is a small gesture toward harmony among meat-makers, both those of animal variety and those that… aren’t.