Driskill: Wyoming Should Follow Florida’s Lead And Ban Lab-Grown Meat

Senate President and multi-generational cattle rancher Ogden Driskill said Florida passing a first-of-its-kind law banning the sale of lab-grown meat last week is a great template for Wyoming to do the same.

Andrew Rossi

May 06, 20245 min read

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a first-of-its-kind bill banning lab-grown meat last week in a move that could serve as a template for other states, including Wyoming.

Florida’s Senate Bill 1064 prohibits the manufacturing and distribution of “cultured meat” in the state, which DeSantis described as an effort to preserve “the integrity of American agriculture."

There’s a growing interest in the potential of lab-grown meat, where animal stem cells are used to produce meat in a laboratory. Many companies are exploring the possibilities of growing everything from chicken and beef to venison, elk and bison this way.

Wyoming has not taken any legislative action on lab-grown meat, but now that Florida has taken the lead with an all-encompassing bill, there’s a bureaucratic path for other states to follow.

And there’s support for banning lab-grown meat in Wyoming.

“There could be a bill as early as the next legislative session,” said Wyoming Senate President and lifelong rancher Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower. “And it could easily be mine.”

A Poor Substitute

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration ruled that lab-grown meat was safe for human consumption in 2022. Then last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture ruled two companies, Upside Foods and GOOD Meat, could begin manufacturing and distributing “cultivated chicken” products.

Billionaires like Bill Gates and Richard Branson, along with giant food conglomerates Tyson Foods and Cargill Inc., are investing in the development of lab-grown meat products. But even ardent proponents admit that these meatier futures are still a long way off.

“Lab-grown meat is not as healthy as natural beef, and it's no better for the environment,” Driskill said. “I think it’s all nonsense.”

Driskill and other Cowboy State ranchers aren’t concerned about competing with cultured meat. Wyoming is the perfect place to raise cattle, and ranchers consistently produce high-quality beef.

“The Intermountain West is made for raising beef,” he said. “It’s an efficient way to use a big chunk of the country where you can’t raise crops. Our beef product is healthy, nutritious and environmentally friendly.”

Even if it ever enters the market, lab-grown meat could still be too expensive to compete with Wyoming beef.

A 2022 paper from the Department of Agricultural Economics at Oklahoma State University projects “optimistically” that the economics of lab-grown meat are far more expensive that raising beef. It projected culture-grown meat’s cost at nearly $29 a pound.

Warrie Means, retired associate dean of the University of Wyoming College of Agriculture, Life Sciences and Natural Resources, told Cowboy State Daily that the best market for growing meat in a lab might be seafood.

Artificial seafood like snow crab “products are already $10 or $15 per pound,” he said. “Maybe they’ll be able to compete in that kind of economic market.”

Forced Into Nonsense

Lab-grown meat hasn’t staked any claims in Wyoming. Nevertheless, Driskill is very supportive of enacting an all-out ban like the one signed by DeSantis in Florida.

Driskill’s primary concern is when or how Wyoming ranchers will be forced to alter their practices to adapt to a future of lab-grown meat. A total ban would ensure no rancher is forced to adapt to accommodate a future built around lab-grown meat.

“They tend to try to force us into it, as we've seen it with some environmental things,” he said. “The business is already somewhat penalized. They try to force us into things that make no sense and that don't work. That really irks me.”

That’s why Driskill would be “extremely supportive” of any legislation proposing a total ban on manufacturing and distributing lab-grown meat in Wyoming. Better to proactively make a stand now than reactively later, he said.

“It makes all the sense in the world to grow beef out here,” he said. “Going to lab-grown makes no sense at all.”

Florida Figured It Out

The Wyoming Legislature has debated lab-grown meat but hasn’t passed any legislation addressing it. Driskill said Florida’s bill could provide the guidance necessary for Wyoming to enact its own total ban.

“Some of the logistics of dealing with it kind of awkward,” he said. “Florida has figured them out, which is probably going to help us out.”

That said, Driskill isn’t necessarily opposed to a Wyoming restaurant wanting to offer a lab-grown steak or burger in the far-flung future envisioned by Gates and food conglomerates. But they shouldn’t try to pass it off as beef in Wyoming.

“If you want to call it a tofu burger, that's fine,” he said. “But calling it beef, like we call our products, is not right at all. Lab-grown meat is pretty sad. Maybe it’ll change at some point, but it does not make sense in Wyoming.”

Andrew Rossi can be reached at arossi@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Andrew Rossi

Features Reporter