ST. LOUIS — Would you eat meat grown in a lab? A 2018 Missouri law will let you know if your burger came from a cow, a plant, or a tank. The state was the first to ban the term “meat” in vegan and other plant-based substitutes.

There is no lab grown meat on store shelves now, but that could change over the next few years. In November 2022, the Food and Drug Administration removed a regulatory hurdle for one San Francisco startup to bring “no kill” meat to the US. The next steps include working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on labeling and inspection.

That startup, Upside Foods, produced a chicken breast that the FDA says is safe for human consumption. They would like lab-grown meat to show up in restaurants in 2023 and in grocery stores by 2028.

Executives with five cultivated meat companies told Reuters this week that they are optimistic about bringing their products to market. They also grow the meat in massive steel vats in a process that looks like beer brewing. There are some major issues that need to be worked out before lab grown meat comes to a store near you.

Currently, the companies require significant investments in order to scale their operations to an industrial scale and diversify the types of meat they can produce. Chicken is good, but the demand for beef, pork, and turkey is significant. Plus, there is a significant “ick-factor” to get over.

The average person eats around 225 pounds of meat per year. Upside Foods can only churn out 400,000 pounds of cultivated meat annually. This means there will need to be a lot more tanks built if demand picks up.

There are also political and economic issues at play here. In 2018, the state of Missouri passed a law that defines the labeling of meat. This was partially in response to the growing amount of plant-based meat showing up at fast food restaurants. There is a part of that law that also applies to cultivated meat.

Products like Impossible burgers or eventually lab grown meat will need to be labeled properly in the Show-Me-State. The bill says that they need to tell consumers if the product they are eating is derived from a plant or grown in a lab.

The Missouri Meat and Poultry Inspection Program has been advised to implement these guidelines:

  • Products must include a prominent statement on the front of the package, immediately before or immediately after the product name, that the product is “plant-based,” “veggie,” “lab-grown,” “lab-created” or a comparable qualifier; and
  • Products must include a prominent statement on the package that the product is “made from plants,” “grown in a lab,” or a comparable disclosure.

The market for meat alternatives has recently cooled. The plant based meat market is expected to make up over seven percent of the global protein supply by 2030. Bloomberg estimates the future value to be at over $162 billion.