What Should We Call Lab-Grown Seafood? Researchers Have An Idea

The debate over what to call plant-based meat alternatives has expanded to also cover questions about how the industry should distinguish lab-grown meat products from traditional livestock counterparts. No single term has been deemed the standard at this time, but researchers have a suggestion about how companies should proceed with these items.

Unlike plant-based 'meat,' which is made entirely from protein and other compounds harvested from plant foods, lab-grown meat is actually meat...only it didn't come from a living animal, mostly. Rather, these lab-grown products are cultivated from animal cells that are grown and then harvested in a sterile facility.

Lab-grown meat has a huge potential to reduce the number of livestock animals raised and slaughtered, addressing both environmental and cruelty concerns. However, consumers will need a way to tell these lab-grown meats from their traditional counterparts once they hit shelves, something that will be accomplished using labels and branding.

A new study from Rutgers University offers a potential standard naming option for these products, suggesting that when it comes to seafood, at least, they should be referred to and sold as 'cell-cultured' or 'cell-based.' Seven possible names for these lab-grown seafood products were in consideration.

The latest study had 1,200 consumers judge packages of an Atlantic salmon product designed to look like the kind you'd find sold at the average grocery store. The labels differed in one key way, however, as they contained the phrase 'cell-based seafood' or 'cell-cultured' seafood.

Both phrases would, the study found, meet both producers' and the FDA's needs regarding product labeling. The consumers expressed a slightly greater preference for the phrase 'cell-based' rather than 'cell-cultured,' both of which are used in the same way existing products may use the phrases 'farm-raised' or 'wild-caught.' Ultimately, getting companies to adopt the same phrase will aid consumers in understanding the nature of the product they're purchasing.