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This week, Missouri became the first state to enact a law regulating the use of the word “meat” in food labeling. The term, according to the law, should be solely reserved for food made from “traditionally harvested” livestock or poultry.
Tofurky, one of the top makers of plant-based meats, filed an injunction in federal court to prevent the enforcement of the meat labeling law. The company claims that the Office of the Missouri Attorney General has received no complaints about customer confusion and that this law is a violation of the First Amendment. The suit was filed by Tofurky, the Good Food Institute, Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), and the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri.
The new law was pushed by the animal agriculture group, the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association. Spokesman Mike Deering claimed that the law was specifically targeting “clean meat,” or meat grown in a lab, rather than plant-based meat products. Still, the rapidly growing plant-based market would be affected.
“Missouri is putting its thumb on the scale to unfairly benefit the meat industry and silence alternative producers. This law violates various constitutional principles, including free speech – which should be a concern for everyone, regardless of diet.” –ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells
Tofurky claims the law would require it and other plant-based meat suppliers to change their labeling to avoid using meat terminology–despite the word “meat” also being used to describe the flesh of fruit and nuts, a point Tofurky makes in their injunction. The suit also notes the involvement of the senators who introduced the bill to the Missouri animal agriculture industry and their statements implying that the point of the law was to protect the beef industry from competition.
This isn’t the first time lawmakers and animal agriculture lobbyist groups have claimed consumer ignorance in order to suppress the soaring plant-based market. The dairy industry continues to push for bans on labeling plant milks as “milk,” despite cows’ milk not being labeled as such. These changes are no doubt pressured by curdling milk sales that are quickly being outpaced by more nutritious and ethical plant-based alternatives.
The Missouri law goes into effect on September 4, but the group is confident that the court will rule it unconstitutional and that it will be overturned.
TAKE ACTION: Tell big dairy that if if consumers are so confused, they should label their product as “cows’ milk.” After all, cow milk is produced by cows for their babies: why not just say it? Sign and share the petition today.