Over the course of the coming decade, the perception of what it means to be “meat” is going to radically change. Plant-based meat products have begun to mimic the taste and texture of meat so accurately that they are quickly becoming an acceptable alternative to traditional meat. In the near future, in vitro meat (or so-called “lab-grown” meat) will be an indistinguishable alternative to meat harvested from animals. These products promise to usher in a future of meat consumption unshackled from the animal suffering and environmental harm that are generally accepted today as a necessary evil in agriculture. With these new products will come new regulatory challenges, not least of which is the issue of how these new meat products should be labeled.
This Note looks to past and present labeling regulations, as well as the theory behind labeling regulation, to argue for how the future labeling of meat substitutes should proceed. Section I of this Note introduces plant-based and in vitro meat and explores the unique aspects and implications of each. Section II examines current state and federal regulations that will affect the labeling of meat substitutes. Section III delves into the essential considerations that must be weighed when contemplating the mandatory labeling of consumer food products. Section IV looks at labeling regulations of plant-based milk and genetically engineered food products, and uses these examples as indicators for how regulation of meat substitutes should or could progress. Section V proposes specific regulatory approaches for plant-based and in vitro meat considering likely and potential future developments, and finally argues that similar standards should be applied to traditional meat.