Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Opinion | Alabama legislators care more about cattle farms’ profits than your grocery bills

CW File

The Alabama Legislature is really on a roll. It’s trying to remove all real penalties for political corruption. The state House just passed a bill to legalize gambling, which will only make it easier to get addicted.

And now, the Alabama Senate has unanimously passed a bill that would make selling, making or distributing lab-grown meat a Class C misdemeanor.

Lab-grown meat is the somewhat unappetizing term of art for meat made by cultivating animal cells. Basically, stem cells are taken from an animal, kept in a nutrient-rich medium where they multiply, and are then shaped into meat.

Both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration have now approved lab-grown meat for sale in the United States. Lab-grown meat advocates point to the potential to decrease greenhouse gas emission, land use and air pollution by more than 90% compared with traditional meat production.

However, one recent study did find that with current technology and the prevalence of nonrenewable energy sources, lab-grown meat might be worse for the environment than traditional meat.

But cultured meat is still a technology in its infancy and is likely to become far more efficient over time. Plus, the same study that found that lab-grown meat might be worse for the environment than traditional meat also found that it would already be better for the environment if it were held to food-grade standards instead of biopharmaceutical standards.

Cultivated meat is also far more ethical than traditional meat. Today, almost 100 billion animals are slaughtered for consumption every year, the overwhelming majority of which are kept in hellish factory farms where they might never see the sky.

The human cost of meat production is similarly immense. Slaughterhouses frequently rely on child labor and were some of the deadliest places to work during the COVID pandemic. Working in a slaughterhouse exacts a psychic toll, potentially causing serious psychological distress and antisocial behavior.

But for some reason, the Republicans and Democrats in the state Senate want to make it illegal for you to choose a more ethical and more environmentally friendly option for your dinner.

They want people to spend up to three months in jail for selling a lab-grown burger. They want people to pay an up to $500 fine for the horrific offense of selling some cultured chicken after it’s already been sold without incident in our nation’s capital.

And at the same time that state politicians are freaking out about how a successful unionization push could make automakers move their plants, they’re about to completely forbid a new and growing industry from opening any plants in the state.

Why are Alabama’s politicians so opposed to the potential future of food?

The bill’s author, state Sen. Jack Williams, R-Mobile, said simply, “I don’t want Alabamians eating that.”

Well, why on God’s green earth does he get to choose? Williams, of course, is a cattle farmer. He’s got an obvious financial interest in making sure that Alabamians have no alternatives to traditional meat.

After all, since the first cultivated burger was made in 2013, prices have already fallen by 99%.

If the price of lab-grown meat keeps falling and it becomes cheaper than traditional meat, Alabamians might save money on groceries, but Williams will be making less money. And wouldn’t that be really awful for him?

There isn’t even any concern that Alabama customers might be unaware that they’re buying lab-grown meat. Back in 2019, the Alabama Legislature passed a law that made it illegal to sell lab-grown meat labeled as meat. That law was bipartisan as well.

At this point, lab-grown meat has passed years of tests by both the FDA and the USDA. It could make meat production drastically better for the environment, could save both animal and human lives, and could never be confused for traditional meat in Alabama because of the labeling law.

If the House passes this new ban, Alabama’s politicians, red and blue, will have really shown just how little they think of their nominal constituents.

They will have shown they apparently believe cattle farmers having no competition is more important than the potential for Alabama to host a new, growing industry and the associated high-paying jobs.

They will have shown they don’t even think you can be trusted to choose whether or not to eat lab-grown meat.

I, on the other hand, hope that in 10 years, we’ll all be able to go to Dreamland BBQ and order some brisket grown in a lab right here in Alabama.

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