Florida, Alabama ban cultivated meat in move that is seen as political

By Deniz Ataman

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Noam Preisman
Source: Noam Preisman

Related tags cultivated meat alternative protein regulations

Cultivate meat bans and production restrictions proposed and passed at the state level are “a reflection [of states’] political climate rather than specifically about the industry or its potential,” Daphna Heffetz, co-founder and CEO, Wanda Fish told FoodNavigator-USA.

Alabama and Florida are the first states to pass laws prohibiting the manufacture, sale or distribution of food products that are produced via cultured animal cells, even though cultivated meat is not for retail sale in the US, yet.

Wanda Fish's technology that forms fat cells for bluefin tuna toro aims to address critical issues in the global food system, including overfishing, increasing access to nutritious food, and promoting a more sustainable food chain.

“It is important to remember we are not here to replace anyone, we are here to bring new food offerings, next to animal-based, plant-based, fermentation and whatever the future may bring to our plates,” Heffetz said.

She added, “It is up to the consumers to choose what they want, and we are committed to transparency.”

Wanda Fish announces fat formation technology for bluefin tuna toro

The cultivated seafood company developed its bluefin tuna toro via its fat formation technology. In the wild, bluefin tuna is scarce due to overfishing, driving up its market value which can be up to $100 per kilo, Heffetz said.

State bans on cultivated meat spark industry debate over agricultural authenticity, innovation

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed SB 1084​ on May 1, 2024, making it the first state to prohibit “any person to manufacture for sale, sell, hold or offer for sale, or distribute cultivated meat.” Violation of the law will result in up to a $500 fine and 60 days in prison. The law will go into effect July 1.

DeSantis argued that cultivated meat is a threat to the cattle ranching industry and a “direct opposition to authentic agriculture​.” According to the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, the state’s beef cattle industry​ generates $900 million annually.

DeSantis emphasized his opposition to the World Economic Forum’s recommendation of exploring cellular agriculture​ as a source of sustainable food production, adding that Florida will invest “more than $2.8 billion” towards the state’s agricultural industry “in The Framework for Freedom Budget.”

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed cultivated meat ban SB 23​ nearly a week after DeSantis on May 7. The law will go into effect Oct. 1. The state defined “cultivated meat” as “any meat or food product produced from cultured animal cells.” 

Violation of Alabama’s ban “by food sales establishments may result in civil penalties, or disciplinary actions, such as suspension or revocation of their food safety permits,” including a $500 fine and up to 90 days in prison. However, the state allows for university and government institutions to conduct research around cell-cultured meat.

Last September, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed SB 664​ into law that requires labels for lab-grown meat and meat alternatives.

Tennessee Sen. Frank Nicely introduced SB 2603​ in January that would ban cultivated meat sales and impose a $1 million on violators. The bill was not considered by either the House or Senate before the General Assembly session ended, the Herald Tribune reported​.

In February, Arizona’s HB 2121​ proposed to “prohibit the sale of cell-cultured animal products for human or animal consumption.” In April, the Senate revised the bill to allow cell cultured meat that is clearly labeled. Sen. John Kavanagh’s amendment to the bill pointed to cultured meat as a new technology and banning it is “kind of ridiculous.”

While state-by-state legislation may create a perceived divide between the cattle and cellular agriculture industries, the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) penned a letter opposing Florida’s ban​ on Feb. 21. The non-profit trade association’s members represent 95% of the United States’ beef, pork, lamb, veal and poultry processors. In the letter, NAMI stated that Florida’s ban is “preempted by federal law” and “bad public policy that would restrict consumer choice and stifle innovation.”

“Wanda Fish’s technology for fat formation in tuna cells is designed to be versatile and adaptable,” Heffetz said.

Wanda_Fish_by_photographer_Noam_Preisman-optimized (1)
Through this process of fat formation, the company is able to lower manufacturing costs and a quicker time to market, two aspects important to overcome the greatest challenge to cultivated food and meet the high and rising demand for bluefin tuna,” Heffetz said. Source: Noam Preisman

The company has produced “over a dozen tuna cell lines that undergo spontaneous immortalization,” she added.

Successful cell lines will multiply and grow quickly, which is “essential for getting as many cells as possible in shorter times,” she said.

Heffetz continued, “We prioritize maintaining the genetic integrity of our cell lines to ensure stability over prolonged culture periods. These characteristics collectively ensure that our cells are healthy and possess the proper differentiation capacities to represent authentic tuna muscle and fat biomass.”

Wanda Fish's cell-cultivated 3D filet merges muscle and fat cells derived from bluefin tuna with a plant-based matrix. The resulting filet contains the same sensory aspects of its wild caught counterpart, in addition to a similar nutritional profile, most notably protein and omega-3 fatty acids.

Through this fat formation, the company is able to lower manufacturing costs and develop a quicker time to market, "two aspects important to overcome ... challenges to cultivated food and meet the high and rising demand for bluefin tuna,” she said.

While Wanda Fish is “already practicing several scaling up options,” in the future the company plans to introduce its tuna to high-end restaurants specializing in Japanese cuisine, including sushi and sashimi, Heffetz said.

The technology can be applied to other “various types of fish cells,” including “rare seafood species,” with “the potential to extend beyond marine life and could offer solutions for a diversity of cultured cell-based products,” she said.

She continued “We should also emphasize that Bluefin tuna is quite different from chicken, from a matter of price and quantity, so this gives us the flexibility to make the right decision at the right time, for the exact quantities we will need, without committing to high CAPEX expenditure.”

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