May 6, 2024

Florida bans lab-grown meat.

Plus, does Tangle delete comments?

I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, nonpartisan, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum on the news of the day — then “my take.”

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Today's read: 10 minutes.

Today, we're breaking down the new Florida law banning lab-grown meat. Plus, a reader question about how we moderate our comments section.


Our Friday edition (which went to all subscribers) generated a huge response from readers and online commentators. I am sorting through all the emails now, but for those of you who missed it, you can read the piece here.

Also, in our Sunday podcast, Ari and I talked about the piece, made some predictions about the future of these demonstrations, debated the Electoral College, and discussed Trump's flip-flop on mail-in and absentee voting. You can listen here.

Quick hits.

  1. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) and his wife were indicted on conspiracy and bribery charges. The Justice Department alleged the couple accepted nearly $600,000 in bribes. (The indictment)
  2. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet voted unanimously to ban the Qatari-owned news outlet Al Jazeera, then raided its offices. (The ban) Meanwhile, Hamas officials claimed responsibility for several rocket attacks at the Gaza-Israel border, and Israel warned residents of Rafah to evacuate because of a pending invasion. (The latest)
  3. Hope Hicks became the first member of former President Trump's inner circle to take the stand in his New York trial, testifying that he instructed her to deny the allegations he had a sexual relationship with Stormy Daniels. (The testimony) Separately, the judge in the case fined Trump for his tenth violation of a gag order and threatened jail time for future violations.
  4. The U.S. economy added 175,000 jobs in April and unemployment ticked up from 3.8% to 3.9%. (The numbers)
  5. Canada arrested three Indian nationals in connection with the 2023 murder of a Sikh separatist leader. (The arrests)

Today's topic.

Florida’s ban on lab-grown meat. On Wednesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed a bill that bans lab-grown meat in the state, describing the bill as an effort to "save our beef" and protect cattle ranchers. The bill, S.B. 1084, made it unlawful to "manufacture for sale, sell, hold or offer for sale, or distribute cultivated meat." 

“Cultivated meat” does not include plant-based meat substitutes but refers only to meat that is grown from animal stem cells. The science behind this process has existed for over a century but wasn’t proposed as a way to “grow” meat until 2013. Florida is the first state to outlaw the manufacture and distribution of lab-grown meat, but states like Alabama, Arizona, and Tennessee are also exploring similar legislation.

Florida ranks ninth for beef cattle production in the U.S., with sales of beef cattle and breeding stock generating a $900 million economic impact annually, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. 

“Today, Florida is fighting back against the global elite’s plan to force the world to eat meat grown in a petri dish or bugs to achieve their authoritarian goals,” DeSantis said in a press release. “Our administration will continue to focus on investing in our local farmers and ranchers, and we will save our beef.”

Good Meat, a company that produces cultivated meat, criticized the decision in a post on X.

"In a state that purportedly prides itself on being a land of freedom and individual liberty, its government is now telling consumers what meat they can or cannot purchase," Good Meat said.

Lab-grown meat is still expected to be years away from commercial viability, but startups have raised millions of dollars pursuing technology to scale it up. The mission of these companies is to create a less carbon-intensive and more animal-friendly alternative to traditional domesticated livestock. One study from The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment estimated that cultivated meat could reduce beef production land use by 90% and the carbon footprint of beef production by 92%. 

Today, we're going to explore some arguments about Florida's new law from the left and right, then my take.


  • Many on the right and left argue that this bill flies in the face of free-market capitalist principles.
  • Writers on both sides criticize the ban as a glaring example of government overreach.

What the left is saying.

  • The left is critical of the law, suggesting it politicizes an issue that doesn’t yet exist.
  • Some say the bill is the latest example of bad policy driven by the culture war. 
  • Others say it’s a ploy to protect wealthy agricultural interests.  

In The Washington Post, Catherine Rampell wrote “the GOP is freaking out about an industry that doesn’t even exist yet.”

“Animal welfare activists have advocated more humane treatment of animals for generations. And traditionally produced meat is responsible for huge quantities of greenhouse gas emissions each year, a consequence of feed production, manure management and, yes, lots of cow belching,” Rampell said. “Then there are people like, well, me. I usually don’t think much about where my food comes from or what its greenhouse gas footprint is… But this is likely true for most consumers: We buy our food primarily based on crass criteria such as price and taste rather than abstract principles such as ‘saving the Earth.’

“That’s exactly what makes this nascent industry so exciting. Perhaps humanity doesn’t have to rely on moral suasion to save the planet and protect helpless critters. Financial incentives alone could do it. This novel technology might eventually create meats that appeal to amoral businesses and lazy consumers,” Rampell wrote. “This is not about a left-wing nanny state forcing the sale or consumption of lab-grown meats. It’s about a conservative nanny state prohibiting the voluntary consumption and sale of these products (which again, mostly don’t yet exist). What happened to the Republicans who wanted the free market to choose winners and losers?”

In Bloomberg, Tyler Cowen said these bans are “red meat for the conservative base.”

“The case for (and against) these laws isn’t primarily economic, though DeSantis did speak of the importance of agriculture, and the Florida Cattlemen’s Association has lobbied for the bill,” Cowen wrote. “Instead, let me offer another theory: The anti-lab-grown-meat movement is about conservative cultural insecurity — the fear that, without the force of law, some conservative cultural norms will fade away.”

“This is the real fear — not of lab-grown meat itself, but of the changing culture its popularity would represent. Whether conservatives find the meat substitute to be adequate is beside the point. Society would have decided that some of their most cherished beliefs can be disposed of. Both humankind’s dominion over nature, which runs strong in the Christian strand of conservative thought, and the masculinized meat-eating culture — more specifically, the meat-grilling culture — would be under threat.”

In Vox, Kenny Torrella argued the ban “is about protecting Big Ag.”

“On the surface, bills aiming to ban cell-cultivated meat could be waved away as mere political theater, a ratcheting up of the culture war by attacking alternatives to factory-farmed meat as a cheap way to own the libs during an election year,” Torrella said. “But there’s something more troubling at play here. The proposed bans are part of a longtime strategy by the politically powerful agribusiness lobby and its allies in Congress and statehouses to further entrench factory farming as America’s dominant source of protein.”

“The cell-cultivated meat bans and the plant-based labeling restrictions represent one side of agribusiness’s policy coin: proactive measures to weaken upstarts that could one day threaten its bottom line. The other side of that coin is sweeping deregulation that has made meat abundant and cheap, but at terrible cost to the environment, workers, and animals,” Torrella wrote. “The sad irony of all the chest-thumping over meat alternatives is that farmers do face many real threats, like a changing climate that makes harvests less predictable and corporate consolidation that has put the majority of America’s meat supply in the hands of a few massive companies.”

What the right is saying.

  • The right mostly opposes the ban on principle, arguing it doesn’t align with conservative ideals. 
  • Some say the law is an affront to free-market capitalism. 
  • Others support the ban as a protective measure for farmers.

In The Dispatch, Nick Catoggio called DeSantis a “meathead.”

“If you want to make a living peddling meat in Florida, you had better be hacking off pieces of a cow, pig, or chicken. Which makes this not just a grim week for libertarians in the GOP but an unusually grim one for animals as well,” Catoggio said. “Every conservative will have the same intuition about Florida’s dumb law. If there are people willing to try lab-grown meat (and there assuredly are) and there are people willing to sell it to them, by what right does the government interfere in that transaction?”

“The only good answer I can think of would involve safety concerns with the product. But there aren’t any. Even if there were, those concerns might plausibly be addressed by regulating production rather than criminalizing it. Nor is DeSantis seriously arguing that lab-grown meat poses a grave public health risk: How could he when just two companies have received FDA approval to produce the stuff thus far and neither one has stock available for purchase anywhere in the U.S.? Florida’s law is a solution in search of a problem, as bad legislation often is.”

In RedState, Ward Clark said the bill is “the wrong move.”

“It's hard to see a reason for this law. Is there some health reason? Is there any evidence that lab-grown meat is dangerous? I'm not saying I'd eat it — I wouldn't touch it myself, but there are lots of things I wouldn't do. But is there some compelling reason for the government of the state of Florida to restrict their residents' choices on this matter?” Clark asked. “One of the reasons given was protecting Florida agriculture… That's an argument that appeals to a lot of people; there's no doubt about it. But in any other matter, with any other product, conservatives and libertarians alike would bridle at the idea of government picking winners and losers in the marketplace.”

“Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians are supposed to be pro-liberty, aren't they? Aren't we? Isn't a primary argument for minimal, strictly limited government supposed to be trusting the citizenry to make their own choices, in where to live, what to own, how to work, and what they eat?” Clark said. “Markets are complicated. They're often messy. But if the government stays out of the way, markets usually get things right in the end. Florida and Ron DeSantis need to be reminded of this.”

In The Washington Examiner, Jeremiah Poff wrote “Florida is right to ban lab-grown meat.”

“The Sunshine State’s policy is actually protecting an industry that employs hundreds of thousands of people from destruction. While not yet a widely available commercial product, lab-grown meat, which is grown from existing animal cells, is widely seen as the future of food production,” Poff said. “The push for lab-grown meat is also seen as a project of the global elite, embodied by the World Economic Forum, which has advanced various ideas to change drastically the kind of food that people consume.”

“Banning lab-grown meat is a good policy because it protects the farming industry from a technological advancement that threatens its very existence and, with it, the livelihoods of entire communities. People settle down in places where they are able to provide for their families. Places that offer good-paying jobs with a stable industry that ensures the community has lasting roots that can endure across generations,” Poff wrote. “By banning the sale of lab-grown meat in the Sunshine State, DeSantis is ensuring that the communities relying on the farming industry to survive will endure for generations.”

My take.

Reminder: "My take" is a section where I give myself space to share my own personal opinion. If you have feedback, criticism, or compliments, don't unsubscribe. Write in by replying to this email, or leave a comment.

  • It’s overly restrictive government policy, and I don’t think it’s ultimately helpful to Floridians.
  • I personally think lab-grown meat is a little weird, and I don’t think it’s a real threat to the industry.
  • Other personal choices that are part of a trend of more tech skepticism are much more likely to disrupt the Big Ag business.

I was glad to see so much bipartisan hand wringing about this bill, because I think it’s a good example of bad government. 

The government should not be banning an industry that as far as we know poses no real public health threat. It's not just a policy prescription that violates conservative and free-market principles, it's also a flat-out dumb way to address a nascent industry. If Florida rejects these companies, they'll go to states (or foreign countries) that are open for business, that create competition and jobs, and that give consumers more options for the kinds of food they want to eat. If this industry is the threat DeSantis thinks it is, then he just assured that his entire state will not get to compete in an industry so brilliant and profitable it could take over an entire sector of the food market.

But I don’t think that lab-grown meat is that industry. Jeremiah Poff claimed in his piece that this is "widely seen as the future of food production," which made me wonder — according to whom?

This is an industry in its infancy that still has a lot of questions to answer and high hurdles to clear: The tech will need to produce a more consistent product, the industry has to function at scale, and the process has to become efficient enough to fulfill the promise of being sustainable. But I don’t think any of those are the industry’s largest problem — if enough money and smart people are behind these startups, I'm sure they’ll figure those things out.

Rather, my gut instinct is that eating meat grown in a lab is just going to weird a lot of people out, and that branding it and bringing it to market is going to be really hard. Not only will these companies have to make the texture and taste perfect, they're going to have to get consumers over the dystopian-futuristic feel of the entire concept. I’m a person who eats a lot of meat, has zero food allergies, and will try any food once; yet, something about this entire idea just makes me squeamish. I know that’s a straw poll with a sample size of one, but I imagine that I’m like a lot of other people.

I’m not sure I’ve written about this in Tangle before, but I’ve long held the belief that society is ready to snap back to a less technologically centered age. Parents are already fighting screen time and remote learning, and I think that’s just the start. There is a good chance that artificial intelligence actually helps to accelerate a massive cultural pushback on robots doing human jobs and all the new tech that will come with it. In that context, meat grown in a petri dish feels ripe for rejection.

I'm also skeptical that cultivated meat will be the innovation to turn the entire livestock industry on its head or save us from global warming. More likely to me is that it serves as a minor disruption, akin to the plant-based "meat" industry. Long term, I believe that the push for more humane animal treatment and concerns about climate change will probably translate into smaller scale farming — we’re already seeing some people buying portions of a cow or subscribing to community-supported agriculture or just eating way less meat. All of which, for what it’s worth, would be good. The mass-scale meat farming industry creates a ton of animal welfare and environmental issues. Without even getting into the carbon-intensity argument, large-scale ranching often requires mass deforestation or causes grassland destruction and water shortages. And I don’t know how it's sustainable with a growing population. 

My initial instinct was one a lot of the writers on the left seem to have: Why is DeSantis banning a nascent industry that doesn't even sell cultivated meat at scale yet? What is the point of fighting an industry that is in its infancy? I suppose if you are in DeSantis’s shoes and feel like this industry is a genuine threat to ranchers, there is no reason to wait for it to take off and then try to fight it. And yet, the reality is that DeSantis is banning an industry that doesn’t even exist for the sake of a threat that — as best as I can tell — is not real, either in the present or in the future.

And make no mistake: This isn't DeSantis fighting back for the upstart cattle rancher being squeezed by big business and evolving consumer demands. This is Big Ag throwing its weight around like any other major lobbying group. Farmers all across the country are facing hard times, but it's got nothing to do with little-known start-ups trying to grow a steak in a lab.

Hopefully bans like these don’t become a sweeping response from states across the country. Instead, investors and consumers should get to see what lab grown meat is really made of — then decide for ourselves.

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Your questions, answered.

Q: I'm a relatively new subscriber. I have been impressed with the level of civility displayed in the comments. I saw very few instances of comments having been removed prior to one I deleted. Having seen the notation that a comment had been removed afterwards, I'm wondering if you ever remove comments?

— Steve from Southport, FL

Tangle: I’m glad you think the comments on our articles are civil! I agree, and it’s rewarding to see people argue and disagree with each other with only a small amount of internet-fueled scorn. The community of our most-engaged readership is something I’m immensely grateful for, and I think it also serves as a testament to the ability of our content to open the door for civil engagement.

Right now, my personal policy is to never remove a comment. But that’s also been pretty easy, because I’ve never felt like I should or had to. If you see that a comment was removed, it actually means that the commenter deleted it themselves. The way the process works is that someone will flag a comment as offensive or inappropriate, I’ll get a notification of that in my email (I believe the commenter does too), then I’ll review the comment to see what the complaint is about. Typically, though, there are Tangle readers already responding to the offending comment and asking someone to offer something more productive — so the ecosystem is just doing its thing. 

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Under the radar.

New York City officials said nearly half of the 282 people arrested at pro-Palestinian protests on Columbia and City College campuses were not students. 29% of the 112 people arrested at a protest on Columbia’s campus were not affiliated with the school, and 60% of the 170 arrested at City College were not. The New York City Police Department and Mayor Eric Adams released the arrest details on Thursday. NPR has the breakdown


  • $225.9 million. The amount invested in cultivated meat and seafood companies in 2023, a 308% year-over-year decrease, according to The Good Food Institute.
  • 17. The number of cultivated meat and seafood facilities opened or announced in 2023.
  • 12%. The percent of total anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions attributed to all livestock systems (with cattle, buffaloes, sheep, goats, pigs, and chickens) in 2015.
  • 60%. The percent of global livestock emissions attributed to cattle, according to a 2023 United Nations report.
  • 862,000. The approximate number of beef cows in Florida as of January 2024, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
  • $17. The estimated production cost per pound of cultivated meat, according to a 2021 study in the journal Biotechnology and Bioengineering.
  • $75,000. The amount contributed to Ron DeSantis by the Florida Cow PAC since 2017. 
  • $72,000. The amount contributed to the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee by the Florida Cow PAC since 2017.

The extras.

Have a nice day.

Detective Michael Harton, a police officer in New Haven, Connecticut, was on duty at a movie theater on March 4, 2019, when Nikki Huckaby ran out of the theater with her baby. The baby had stopped breathing, and Huckaby said she was so scared she couldn’t remember how to perform CPR. Luckily she found Detective Harton, a trained EMT who was able to save the baby’s life. Now, Harton, who has since agreed to be the baby’s godfather, and Huckaby are like family. "Everybody’s lives changed for the better that night — especially mine," Det. Harton said. Fox News has the story.

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Isaac Saul
I'm a politics reporter who grew up in Bucks County, PA — one of the most politically divided counties in America. I'm trying to fix the way we consume political news.