Italy Isn't Jumping On The Lab-Grown Meat Bandwagon

Italy is known for being quite protective of its culinary heritage. There are strict rules governing how things like Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and Cotechino di Modena sausage are made, and whole organizations dedicated to preserving the uniqueness of Italian foods such as the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana for Neapolitan pizza.

So it's hardly surprising that when it comes to the phenomenon of cultured meat, AKA lab-grown meat, Italy has decided to say, "No, grazie." Italy's ruling coalition government, headed by the far-right Brothers of Italy party and Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, is proposing legislation that would outlaw what it calls "cell cultures or tissues derived from vertebrate animals." As reported by Reuters, Minister of Agriculture Francesco Lollobrigida said the move would protect Italian culture and heritage as well as the well-being of Italian citizens. Violators of the law (which still needs to be passed by the Italian parliament) would be subject to fines that could reach 60,000 euros, or just over $65,000.

The move against lab-grown meat is part of a larger push from Prime Minister Meloni's government to protect what it says is Italy's cultural identity. Other identity-focused legislation includes a bill that would fine companies that use foreign terms, especially English words, in official documents, and another that would make it more difficult for same-sex couples to register their children with the government.

Italy says no, but the United States says yes

When it comes to banning cultured meat the Italian public seems to be on board. Per the Italian news outlet Adnkronos, a Coldiretti-Censis survey found that 84% of respondents were against the idea of any food created in a laboratory, from meat to fish to even cheese. The Italian government has also expressed concerns about the possible health ramifications. The publication Food Ingredients First quoted Italian Health Minister Orazio Schillaci as saying that there haven't been studies conducted about the effects of lab-manufactured foods on human health.

Italian farmers have also closed ranks against cultivated animal protein, fearing threats to their livelihood. In conjunction with the World Farmers' Organization, a coalition of Italian farmers launched a global petition against what they are calling "Frankenstein food," according to Euronews. It supposedly garnered over 500,000 signatures.

While many Italians might be skeptical of cultured animal protein, in the United States it's been met with more acceptance. The FDA first approved lab-produced meat in November 2022. Given global concerns about climate change and food security, some say that lab-grown meat is the future of food. It's not inconceivable that in a matter of a few short years, if not sooner, you could find a cultivated steak at your local supermarket. With this most recent move from the Italian government, however, lab-grown Prosciutto di Parma might be a long way from becoming a reality.