Sell Lab-Grown Meat in Alabama and You Could Go to Jail

Alabama has become the second US state to ban the sale of cultivated meat. The bill, signed into law by Governor Kay Ivey on May 7, will make it illegal for anyone to manufacture, sell, or distribute cultivated meat in Alabama. Anyone found guilty of violating the law will have committed a class C misdemeanor, which in Alabama carries the possibility of up to a three-month jail sentence and a fine of $500.

Earlier this May, Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed a similar bill banning cultivated meat in his state. US senator John Fetterman posted his support of the Florida bill on X, writing that “as some dude who would never serve that slop to my kids, I stand with our American ranchers and farmers.”

These two bans mean that approximately 28 million Americans now live in states that have banned cultivated meat—meat that comes from real animal cells grown by bioreactors instead of requiring the slaughter of animals. Only two companies have approval to sell cultivated meat in the US, and it is not currently on sale in any restaurants.

The laws have been greeted with disappointment from supporters of the cultivated meat industry. “With these shortsighted laws, Alabama and Florida politicians are trampling on consumer choice and criminalizing agricultural innovation,” says Pepin Andrew Tuma, legislative director at the Good Food Institute, a nonprofit that works to accelerate adoption of alternatives to animal protein.

“At a time when American farmers and manufacturers face stiff competition around the world, states can either support new initiatives that create thousands of good-paying jobs, or they can play politics and police the foods people eat,” says Tuma. “When they’re done with distractions and political theater, we hope these public servants will remember their former affinity for free markets and free speech.”

The Alabama bill was proposed by Senator Jack Williams, vice chair of the Senate Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry Committee. The bill had a smooth passage through the state legislature, passing the Alabama House with 85 votes for and 14 against, and the Senate with 32 votes for and none against. The law will come into effect from October 2024.

Cultivated meat companies have argued strongly against the bans, saying that it should not be up to state governments to decide what people can eat, and that the bans will stifle a technology that could offer a way to produce meat with lower environmental impact and less animal cruelty. The Alabama bill includes a carve-out that allows higher education institutes and government departments to conduct research into cultivated meat.

“Alabama’s decision to strip its citizens of their right to decide what they can eat erodes freedom at an important moment. During the same legislative session, a bill—HB14—was considered which would require, among other things, signage warning Alabamans of fish that have been contaminated by polluted waters. Shouldn’t Alabamans have the right to feed their families a product like ours which avoids these contaminants?” says Justin Kolbeck, CEO of cultivated seafood firm Wildtype.