Everything is about branding these days. When a food or an ingredient starts to get a poor reputation, companies will often re-name or re-brand it, hoping consumers won't make the connection.
Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) won't allow the change because the agency realizes manufacturers are trying to fool consumers, like when the Corn Refiners Association wanted to change the name of high fructose corn syrup to corn sugar. The FDA said the name change would confuse consumers.
This past summer, the FDA also ruled that "evaporated cane juice," a term found in the ingredients list on many organic and natural foods, has to go and be replaced by the word "sugar." Sometimes, the FDA is on the side of the consumer, helping make the ingredient list more clear.
So it'll be interesting to see if consumers are confused by — or if the FDA has anything to say about — the producers of lab-grown meat re-branding their product and calling it "clean meat."
Laboratory-grown meat is a recent phenomenon. I first heard of it about three years ago, when the first burger produced from lab-grown meat, also referred to as cultured meat or in-vitro meat, was created. That first burger cost $325,000, and at the time, I didn't know whether to be excited or terrified by the prospect of meat grown in a lab from animal tissue. Technically, it's an animal product, but its creation does not consume the resources that meat created from whole animals does.
The technology for creating lab-grown meat is quickly growing. It's close to hitting the market — we are about two years away from consumer availability — and its creators and producers want to re-brand it because its current names come with a "yuck factor," according to GlobalMeat News. They believe the term clean meat is a more accurate way of describing meat that wasn't produced by slaughtering an animal. There's also a feeling that the word "clean" conveys other positive things about the product: It's better for the environment and contains fewer foodborne pathogens and drug residues.
I'm sure lab-grown meat will need to gather some FDA approvals before being released on the market, so the question is, will the FDA allow it be marketed as "clean meat"? And, if it does, will the term take the yuck factor away and make it desirable to consumers, or will the name fool people into thinking they're eating a slaughtered animal that is somehow cleaner than other slaughtered animals?
I still don't know whether to be excited about lab-grown meat or terrified by it, but I do know this: When it's available, I'll learn more about it and probably try it, and the term "clean meat" won't make any difference in the end.