Hanes: The Beef Checkoff and Lab-Grown Protein
As the fortunes of “plant-based meat” companies appear to be in decline recently, another competitor to beef raised on farms and ranches is starting to garner more headlines. “Lab-grown” or “cell-cultured meat” seems to be popping up here and there. Seeing these articles, some producers have expressed concern to me that the Beef Checkoff may begin to promote this “lab-grown” protein.
Based on the law, my answer to them is always the same – no way!
Regardless of how these lab-grown products will be categorized, the Beef Checkoff will not be promoting them. Why? It all goes back to the federal law that created and controls the Beef Checkoff. In this law, called the Beef Promotion and Research Act (the Act), there are very clear definitions relative to the Checkoff program and what it can and can’t do.
The Act specifically defines three important terms: “beef”, “beef products”, and “cattle”:
· Definition #1: “beef” as “flesh from cattle”
· Definition #2: “Beef products” are “edible products produced in whole or in part from beef”
· Definition #3: “cattle” are defined as “live domesticated bovine animals”
The Act goes on to note that the Beef Checkoff can only be used for promotion, advertising, research and consumer and industry information programs, focused solely on “beef and beef products,” and to support the beef industry.
These definitions for both beef and beef products as coming directly from the flesh of cattle (and cattle are live animals) are key, as lab-grown protein does not meet these established descriptions. In addition, no Checkoff dollars will be collected from any of these cell-based products. Checkoff assessments are based on live cattle, or imported beef and beef products, originating from live cattle. There are no provisions in the federal Checkoff law to collect dollars from lab-grown meat to be used in our program.
Keep in mind there is one more check and balance to ensure no Beef Checkoff dollars are spent promoting a product that does not generate assessments on behalf of the Checkoff program. According to The Act, any programs funded by national Beef Checkoff dollars must be approved by the Beef Promotion Operating Committee (BPOC), comprised of “cattle producers and importers”. Non- assessment payers are not eligible to become CBB Board or BPOC members and would not make these important funding decisions.
We stand by those who pay into our longstanding program and will continue to take our legal and fiduciary responsibilities in upholding the law with the same continued commitment we use every day - now and in the future.