What’s the Italian Government’s beef with cultivated meat?

When the ban on cultivated meat production by the Italian Government, which had been in the pipeline for some time, was announced last month, there was strong criticism from a number of quarters. For example, Francesca Gallelli, Public Affairs Consultant at Good Food Institute (GFI) Europe, told us​ that it would miss opportunities to develop sustainable meat production and stifle innovation for Italian startups.

However, for the Italian Government, there are a number of compelling reasons why such a ban is necessary.

Protection of quality

One of the key reasons for the ban, according to Aurora Russi, Head of Press and Culture at the Italian Embassy in London, is protecting the quality of Italy’s food.

The stated objective of the ban, she told us, is to “protect our food, our food system, and to keep the strong and historical relationship between food, land, and human labor. Furthermore, the purpose is to ensure the quality that Italy expresses and which represents food security for the entire planet​.”

The quality of Italian food, suggested Russi, is threatened by cultivated meat. “Indeed, synthetic food, cultivated with methods far from our traditions, does not guarantee this principle. If food were to become standardized, the quality element would diminish. The notion that food security can be ensured through this mechanism means relinquishing the concept of quality as meant in Italy​.”

The decision puts the quality of the meat at centre stage. While Russi admitted that “the nutritional values of so-called synthetic meat currently replicate the characteristics of meat fairly similarly​,” she stressed that “this approach emphasizes quality standardization, whereas Italy boasts an enormous gastronomic heritage made up of a massive number of Geographical Indications known for its high quality linked to territory of origin and traditional production techniques​.”