South Dakota cattle producers stress labeling fears as cell-cultured products approach mainstream

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- South Dakota cattle producers are in Washington this week with concerns over food labeling. They say with new technologies in meat production, they are worried what that will mean for their product. They say they are concerned consumers could be misled. Another concern may lie in the bottom line.

“It’s competition to what we produce in South Dakota,” said Brett Kenzy, a South Dakota cattle producer.

The United States Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration held a public meeting this week on cell-cultured products, what some are calling meat made in labs. Kenzy has a commercial cowherd. With these new products knocking on the door of the mainstream, he says the heart and soul he puts into his product are in jeopardy.

“If this technology isn’t labeled clearly, it could become an invisible competitor,” said Kenzy.

Kenzy says he fears big packing companies will blend natural meat with unnatural product and get away with labeling it as meat. Eric Sumption, a fellow South Dakota producer says consumers should not have to do research at the grocery store. He says the federal government needs to make it clear for them.

“I have no problem with them doing it. Just abide by the rules and regulations like we do,” said Sumption.

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue told the crowd cell-cultured products have a place in our future and Americans need to be ready for it.

“It’s very important that we have a framework that encourages innovation,” said Secretary Perdue.

He says this public meeting allows all sides to provide input as the U.S. gears up to help feed a projected world population of 9 billion people by 2050. They say they will use the concerns and insights as they prepare to regulate this revolutionary industry.

“The public have a right to know and expect clear, concise regulations and bright lines,” said Secretary Perdue.

The two-day meeting came to a close on Wednesday.