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  • Some startups aiming to create real meat from animal cells are abandoning the term "clean meat."
  • In a meeting following a conference on alternatives to traditional meat, CEOs and representatives from those companies decided the term "clean" comes with too much baggage.
  • The startups are also working to create an industry trade organisation focused on working more closely with traditional meat companies.


CEOs from a handful of startups working to create meat from animal cells have decided there’s one thing they don’t want their product to be called: clean. 

Some startups had been using the term "clean meat" as a moniker for real meat grown in a lab from animal cells. But following a spirited discussion behind closed doors on Friday, the leaders of at least five startups decided that the name comes with too much negative baggage. 

Clean implies superiority, or that one method is better than another, Uma Valeti, the founder and CEO of a startup called Memphis Meats, which aims to make duck, chicken, and beef without slaughter, told Business Insider.

His comments came at the end of a panel on the future of meat at a conference organised by the non-profit Good Food Institute but before the closed-door meeting, which was held later that day.

Instead of calling their products “clean,” a term the startups had used to distinguish themselves from factory-farmed meat and plant-based meat alternatives like the Impossible Burger, the companies plan to use the phrase “cell-based," Brian Spears, the founder of New Age Meat, another startup aiming to make meat from animal cells, told Business Insider.

It's a big move for the industry, which has grown from a few small ventures to a significant and organised group of nearly a dozen startups and established companies.

At their meeting, the representatives of these cultured-meat startups also agreed to form an industry trade organisation to represent themselves. They hope the move will allow for better collaboration with traditional meat companies, but have not released any further details on that work. 

'We want to make winners instead of losers'

Deciding what to call meat that doesn't come from a farm has become tricky business in recent months.

In the past, cultured-meat companies floated the idea of labels emphasising that their products come from labs instead of slaughterhouses. That's where the word “clean” originated.

Other startups have said their products should simply be called "meat," because at their core, they are the same as traditional meat.

But traditional meat producers are not fans of those options. 

The US Cattlemen's Association recently filed a petition to the US Department of Agriculture that would limit using the terms "beef" and "meat" to products "born, raised, and harvested in the traditional manner." In Missouri, that language just became law, meaning that any product made without slaughter couldn't be called meat.

That underscores the need for a separate label for animal products coming out of startups that don't rely on farms.

Still, alternatives like “farm-free” don’t work either, some of the CEOs said. That's because not all traditional meat is produced in factory farms, and because it emphasizes what the startups are seeking to avoid, rather than what they aim to represent.

“We’d rather define ourselves by what we are, as opposed to what we are not,” Niya Gupta, the co-founder and CEO of Fork & Goode, a startup aiming to make pork from animal cells, told Business Insider before the closed-door meeting on Friday.

Spears said the term "cell based" also will make it easier for companies like his to collaborate with traditional meat companies, who may have felt antagonised by the term "clean." 

"Cell-based meat is a better label to bring them on board," Spears said. "We want to make winners instead of losers. Losers will fight you, winners will fight with you."

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