DeSantis' Ban On Cultivated Meat: Food Freedom Battered in the Free State of Florida

DeSantis' Ban On Cultivated Meat: Food Freedom Battered in the Free State of Florida

Liv Caputo
Liv Caputo
June 28, 2024

WYNWOOD, FL—As it turns out, the freedoms promised in Governor DeSantis' "Free State of Florida" don't extend to food—at least that's what tech company UPSIDE Foods told The Floridian at their first (and last) cultivated meat event before the Governor's statewide ban takes effect.

"I don't know that there's anything less American than the government telling you what you can eat—I don't have words to describe the confusion I have when it comes to somebody who talks about freedom and yet can't allow a capitalist economy to exist," said Pepin Tuma, the Legislative Director at the non-profit, cultivated meat organization The Good Food Institute.

"It's not a conservative policy to have the government make decisions for you, which leaves people wondering, what is it about Governor DeSantis that makes him think he is the right person to tell you what you can and can't eat?" He added. Tuma referenced DeSantis' ban on the sale or manufacture of cultivated meat—or as DeSantis calls it, "fake meat".

Tuma helped organize UPSIDE Foods' Thursday night event at a high-rise Wynwood business center called the Annex, overlooking the Miami skyline and the famed art district, and with an open bar and free cultivated chicken filet tostadas, it drew in a crowd of around 100 guests including a slew of reporters.

UPSIDE, a California-based company borne in 2015 that was the first business to get cultivated chicken filet approved by the FDA and USDA and brought to market, said they wanted to show Floridians what cultivated meat tastes like—before it's too late.

"We wanted to celebrate food freedom, and advocate for people's rights to choose what goes on their plates, and we thought why not go out with a bang?" UPSIDE's spokeswoman Brooke Whitney said. The COO, Amy Chen, echoed the freedom sentiments, stating, "We're not trying to replace conventional meat, but we believe it's an important choice for consumers to have, and tonight is a chance for us to give Floridians that choice, and experience it for themselves."

The ban, which imposes a second-degree misdemeanor on violators, takes effect on July 1st.

DeSantis' Ban is "Shortsighted...Disappointing...Uninformed"

Chen and CEO Uma Valeti turned to accusations that the cultivated meat is fake or lab-grown, vehemently pushing back on claims they think come from a place of fearing the new.

"I love meat, but I don't love the way it's made, and cultivated meat gives people the chance to have meat that is delicious and amazing," Chen said, explaining that it's created by feeding cells from a fertilized egg nutrients normally found and gained inside of the animal's body, "And then they grow and voila!"

"It's not grown in a lab, it's grown in clean cultivators," Valeti said, explaining that their California facility is "large and clean" with glass walls so "You can see how the meat is made."

"The end product is delicious, and we're offering choice and an opportunity to save life on the planet," he added, revealing that once people try the cultivated chicken product, they do "the chicken nod," a phenomenon he says happens when people realize the cultivated chicken is real chicken, and start to nod in recognition.

The UPSIDE heads turned to the Governor's ban, calling it "shortsighted", "disappointing" and "uninformed". They, along with their spokeswoman Brooke Whitney, said they anticipate a legal battle to overturn the recently signed law—which has only been mimicked in Alabama and Italy.

"We'd like to reach out to the Governor and say 'How can we teach you about cultivated meat, how can we talk to you about the science, the safety, the environmental opportunity, the ethical opportunity, the economic opportunity that will come in time?'" Valeti said, revealing that the Governor's office has never reached out to UPSIDE Foods.

Cultivated Chicken Tastes Like...Chicken

So how did it taste?

The growing consensus tasted like chicken! Which—as Valeti and Tuma pointed out—is because it is chicken.

"It tastes like chicken! I don't know how else to describe it. I expected it to be chewy and plastic-y, but it wasn't that. I liked it—it tasted really, really good, actually," said Sophia Martinez, a 26-year-old Coral Gables resident who drove the half-hour to Wynwood for the "experience."

"I know this is getting banned in Florida and I just wanted to see it, and I'm pro-science," she continued. "I don't understand the ban, but I also kind of do, because I understand why people are scared of cell-grown chicken—it's a little scary—but I also think it's cool—I think it can save a lot of animals."

While cultivated chicken filet is UPSIDE's only menu item as of yet, they're currently waiting for regulatory clearance on their next set of products: a shredded, rotisserie-style chicken mixed with plant-based materials that can be used for potstickers or other chicken-plant hybrid foods.

Soon, Whitney says, they will expand into cultivated beef.

Related Posts

Liv Caputo

Liv Caputo

Livia Caputo is a senior at Florida State University, working on a major in Criminology, and a triple minor in Psychology, Communications, and German. She has been working on a journalism career for the past year, and hopes to become a successful reporter after graduation. Her work has been cited in Fox News, the New York Post, and the Daily Mail

Subscribe to the newsletter everyone in Florida is reading.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


More Related Posts