Washington Insider-- Friday
Competition from Plant Based Meat Increasing
Here's a quick monitor of Washington farm and trade policy issues from DTN's well-placed observer.
DHS Issues Order For Cotton Products Made By China's XPCC
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol at all U.S. points of entry will detail shipments of cotton and cotton products originating from the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) via a Withhold Release Order (WRO) based on information that “reasonably indicates the use of forced labor, including convict labor,” according to a statement from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The agency said the order applies to “all cotton and cotton products produced by the XPCC and its subordinate and affiliated entities as well as any products that are made in whole or in part with or derived from that cotton, such as apparel, garments, and textiles.” This marks the sixth action taken by the Trump administration's CBP relative to goods made by forced labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, DHS said.
DHS Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli said, the action was to make sure that those who are abuse human rights “are not allowed to manipulate our system in order to profit from slave labor. 'Made in China' is not just a country of origin it is a warning label.” He also said that the action could affect “billions of dollars” of imports when the action scales up. The administration in early July announced issued a Xinjiang Supply Chain Business Advisory and the Department of Treasury July 11 announced that it had sanctioned XPCC and prohibited doing business directly with XPCC.
China's Xinjiang produces 85% of China's cotton and DHS said that the actions thus far are not a region-wide blockade on cotton products from Xinjiang.
But Cuccinelli said that XPCC is so prevalent in the region's economy that blocking products from the firm will be similar to a region-wide ban. “It is so massive that even though it appears that it's a single company, from our perspective it is equivalent to a regional WRO,” Cuccinelli said.
Acting CPB Commissioner Mark Morgan said while the U.S. wants to target those using forced labor, they do not want to negatively impact entities that are not using forced labor. “That's why we are going to continue to investigate and we are not going to issue a region-wide WRO until we feel we can implement that correctly,” he noted. The U.S. textile industry has expressed concern about a region-wide ban as it would be difficult to determine which products from Xinjiang, and Morgan acknowledged CBP “shared those concerns.” But Cuccinelli warned that a region-wide ban is “definitely under consideration.”
US Grain Standards Act Reauthorization Sent To Trump
The House Wednesday cleared the United States Grain Standards Reauthorization Act (GSA) of 2020 (S 4054) under suspension of the rules, sending the plan to President Donald Trump for his signature. The legislation would reauthorize the GSA through September 30, 2025.
Several groups hailed the passage of the legislation which the Senate had approved November 16. The reauthorization also included some changes, including that delegated state agencies to notify users of official inspection or weighing services at least 72 hours in advance of any intent to discontinue such services.
It will also ensure that Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) user fees are directed solely to inspection and weighing services and FGIS will undertake a comprehensive review of the current boundaries for the officially designated grain inspection agencies in the domestic marketplace.
It has been clear for some time that plant-based products aimed at current markets for meats are engaged in a serious battle for an extremely important part of U.S. producer incomes: those from the production of livestock.
This week, the Guardian is reporting that cultured meat, produced in bioreactors without the slaughter of an animal, has been approved for sale by a regulatory authority for the first time. The development is being hailed as a landmark moment across the meat industry, the Guardian says.
So called “chicken bites”, produced by the U.S. company Eat Just, have passed a safety review by the Singapore Food Agency and the approval could open the door to a future when large shares of meat are produced without the killing of livestock, the company said.
Dozens of firms are developing cultivated chicken, beef and pork and claim to be slashing the impact of industrial livestock production on the global climate crises, as well as providing imitation meat products claimed to be “cleaner, drug-free and cruelty-free.” Currently, about 130 million chickens are slaughtered every day for meat, and 4 million hogs, the Guardian said.
The cells for Eat Just's product are grown in a 1,200-litre bioreactor and then combined with plant-based ingredients. Initial availability will be limited, the company says, and the bites will be offered in a restaurant in Singapore. The product will be significantly more expensive than conventional chicken until production is scaled up, but Eat Just claims it will “ultimately be cheaper.”
The cells used to start the process came from a cell bank and did not require the slaughter of live chickens. The nutrients supplied to the growing cells were all from plants.
The growth medium for the Singapore production line includes bovine serum, which is extracted from fetal blood, the Guardian said, but “this is largely removed before consumption.” A plant-based serum is to be used in the next production line, the Eat Just company said, but was not available when the Singapore approval process began two years ago.
The Guardian claims that “a series of scientific studies have shown that people in rich nations eat more meat than is healthy for them or the planet.” In addition, it argues that research shows cutting meat consumption is vital in tackling the climate crisis and “some scientists say this is the best single environmental action a person can take.
The companies developing lab-grown meat believe their products are most likely to wean committed meat-eaters off traditional sources. Vegan diets are viewed as unappealing by some, and plant-based meat replacements are seen as more successful in replicating the texture and flavor of conventional meat.
The small scale of current cultured meat production requires a relatively high use of energy and therefore carbon emissions. But once scaled up its manufacturers say it will produce much lower emissions and use far less water and land than conventional meat.
Josh Tetrick, of Eat Just, said: “I think the approval is one of the most significant milestones in the food industry in the last handful of decades. It's an open door and it's up to us and other companies to take that opportunity. My hope is that this leads to a world in the next handful of years where the majority of meat doesn't require killing a single animal or tearing down a single tree.”
But he said major challenges remained, with the reaction of consumers to cultured meat perhaps being the most significant: “Is it different? For sure. Our hope is through transparent communication with consumers, what this is and how it compares to conventional meat, we're able to win. But it's not a guarantee.” He said the cultured chicken was nutritionally the same as conventional meat.
Other challenges included getting regulatory approval in other nations and increasing production. “If we want to serve the entire country of Singapore, and eventually bring it to elsewhere in the world, we need to move to 10,000-litre or 50,000-litre-plus bioreactors,” Tetrick said.
A recent report from the global consultancy AT Kearney predicted that most meat in 2040 would not come from dead animals. The firm's Carsten Gerhardt said: “Approval in an innovation hotspot like Singapore already in 2020 could fast-forward market entry in other developed nations. In the long run we are convinced that cultured meat will address the health and environmental impact issues that traditional meat has when produced in a highly industrialized way.”
Gerhardt also said he expected cultured meat would replace cuts of traditional meat, but that plant-based products, which will be less expensive, are more likely to replace burgers and sausages.
“The [Eat Just approval] is a very big deal for the future of meat production globally,” said Bruce Friedrich, at the non-profit Good Food Institute in the U.S.. “A new space race for the future of food is under way.” He said cultivated meat is unlikely to become mainstream for some years, until it matched the cost of conventional meat.
So, we will see. Conventional meat producers can be expected to take this new competition seriously, and to put up extended, well-funded fights over the coming years – efforts that likely will be both national and international in their focus and which should be watched closely by producers as they emerge, Washington Insider believes.
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