What should we call meat that doesn’t come from a farm animal but was grown in a metal bioreactor in a factory? The Agriculture Department is contemplating how this experimental food should be labeled for consumers when it appears at the supermarket. And the agency is poised to make the wrong choice.

A USDA official said the agency is expected to release labeling rules for meat from a bioreactor later this year. The rules will likely designate the product as “cell-cultured” or “cultivated.” A much clearer and more consumer-friendly label would be “lab-grown.”

What is this new meat product? It’s made by taking animal cells, putting them in a bioreactor, and adding a growth serum. The cells grow, proliferate, and can be harvested and shaped into a patty or similar form after a few weeks.

A food label should be something that consumers can easily understand — whether they want to buy or avoid the product. Recent polling indicates that consumers overwhelmingly believe “lab-grown” is the most appropriate term. Consumers were given four choices for possible labels for meat grown in a bioreactor: Lab-grown, cell-cultured, cultivated or synthetic.

A whopping 70 percent of respondents said “lab-grown” would be the best label. “Cultivated,” at 13 percent, was a distant second. The USDA should listen to consumers and choose “lab-grown” as the label.

The USDA and Food and Drug Administration have approved lab-grown meat from two startups for sale. While companies haven’t been able to commercialize it yet — instead holding a few restaurant tastings — lab-grown meat is already facing consumer skepticism.

Other recent polling shows that 75 percent of Republicans, 60 percent of Democrats, and 67 percent of independents are unwilling to include lab-grown meat in their diets. This widespread hesitation stems from several factors, including the lack of long-term health studies on lab-grown meat.

Several key differences between lab-grown and natural meat have raised consumer concern, so a clear label differentiating lab-grown meat from natural, farm-raised meat is vital.

One primary concern revolves around using “immortalized” cells in lab-grown meat production.

While immortalized cells have been used in scientific research, they were not created as part of the human diet. Although some scientists believe humans can safely consume immortalized cells, no long-term health studies confirm this, according to Bloomberg News.

Another critical aspect of lab-grown meat production is the growth process itself. The cells are bathed in a proprietary serum containing various chemical growth factors, promoting cell proliferation and tissue formation. The exact composition of these growth factors is often kept secret by the companies, raising concerns from transparency advocates.

The terminology “lab-grown” is not new. For instance, “lab-grown diamonds” is widely accepted and clearly understood to refer to synthetic diamonds. The same principle should apply to lab-grown meat.

Because of the high cost of producing lab-grown meat, some companies attempt to blend it in with other foods, such as plant-based meat imitations. This blending makes it even more critical to have clear and straightforward labels. Consumers deserve to know what they are eating, and confusing terms like “cell-cultured” or “cultivated” do not provide the necessary clarity.

The USDA is responsible for protecting consumers by ensuring that labels are accurate and informative. Using “lab-grown” provides a clear and honest product description, allowing consumers to make informed choices on what they put on their dinner table. As the debate over lab-grown meat continues, transparency and consumer trust must remain at the forefront of regulatory decisions.