Companies That Make Lab-Grown Meat Would Really Prefer If You Called It ‘Clean Food’ Instead

It’s not “lab-grown,” it’s “clean!” Photo: Reuters/David Parry/Pool

With Impossible Foods’ bleeding vegetable burger already at Momofuku Nishi, and experts predicting that lab-grown burgers will be widely available by 2020, the fake-meat revolution looks to be right around the corner. And yet, the very people who make these faux meats also seem to have figured out that diners don’t find the idea of “cultured” or “lab-grown” proteins to be all that appealing. In other words: Before fake meat becomes big business, the companies opting to grow their beef in petri dishes must overcome the hurdle that their products tend to kind of freak people out. So, they need some new terminology.

One option that’s reportedly on the table: calling this “clean food,” which is great because it doesn’t immediately make you think of scientists and beakers and lab environments. In fact, it’s so vague, it doesn’t really make you think of anything at all. (You know, like “natural” or “light.”) The term was dreamed up by the lobbyists at the recently established Good Food Institute — a trade group for meat labs — in an effort to help people pretend they’re eating actual meat. The idea is that it highlights the benefits of lab-grown meat — namely, that it cuts down on sustainability and animal-welfare issues and is a play on clean energy. Everyone likes clean stuff, right? Essentially, though, it amounts to the fact that people are really shallow: If you come up with a catchy name, like Chilean sea bass (instead of “Patagonian toothfish”) or Just Mayo (instead of “creamy vegan soy spread”), you’re bound to move at least a little more product.

Lab-Grown Meat Is Being Rebranded As ‘Clean Food’