Harvard weighs in on labeling lab meat

A burger made from cultured beef, which has been developed by Mark Post of Maastricht University in the Netherlands. The Harvard Law School Animal Law and Policy Clinic says cultured meat should be labeled “beef.”

With all due respect, our friends at Harvard University are wrong.

We disagree with their proposal to label all meat as beef, whether it comes from a cow or from a culture of cells created in a laboratory.

Harvard Law School’s Animal Law and Policy Clinic recently chimed in on an effort by USDA to come up with a regulation for labeling meat. The law students say that all meat, whether raised on a pasture or in a Petri dish, is the same, which it is not.

Here’s what we mean.

As most consumers know, beef comes from cows. Cows are born and grow up grazing. Then most go to feedlots, where they put on the requisite amount of weight.

Then they go to a processor or butcher and exit as steaks, roasts, hamburger and other cuts of beef.

Meat grown in a lab is no more like beef than Tang is like orange juice. Both are beverages and both are orange, but only one could ever be labeled orange juice. Tang was invented in 1957 and got a boost when astronaut John Glenn drank it while orbiting the earth, but it isn’t orange juice.

Why beef labels have baffled the folks at Harvard, we cannot say. Like so many other legal arguments, common sense has been left out.

For example, the raw ingredients for beef are hay, silage and grass with some water to wash it all down.

What goes into “cell-cultured meat?” God knows, but we bet you a doughnut and a cup of coffee that no hay, silage or grass is involved. In fact, the dozens of companies that are creating that stuff won’t tell anyone exactly what goes into their products. It’s a secret.

Then they have to add other things — including coloring and flavoring — to make it palatable. Talk about Frankenfood.

All that effort for a hamburger patty that costs $600 when you can get a genuine beef burger for a tiny fraction of that.

The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association pointed out that difference a couple of years ago, when it petitioned the USDA to label as beef only meat that is “harvested in the traditional manner.”

The cattlemen are 100% correct. Beef is beef and that other stuff is a lab experiment.

Maybe the Harvard folks should look at it this way. Their moms and dads spent a fortune to put them through Harvard, where many of the elites send their progeny. What would they do if anyone who received a college degree from any college could also say they are Harvard graduates?

Harvard graduates everywhere would probably choke on their champagne and caviar at the thought.

That is why the USDA has to get this beef labeling rule right, no matter what Harvard’s best and brightest say.

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