Missouri Legislators Vote in Favor of Law Preventing Plant-Based Products From Being Called ‘Meat’

Missouri Legislators Vote in Favor of Law Preventing Plant-Based Products From Being Called 'Meat'
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Legislation that would make it illegal to use the words “meat” or “meat substitutes” on plant-based and vegan products that mimic the properties of animal-based meat, is headed to the Missouri governor’s desk to be signed into law.

The measure passed through the state Senate this week with a 125-22 vote and the support of the state’s pork producers along with the Missouri Farm Bureau and the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association.

“We’re not trying to mislead anyone. We’re just trying to protect our product,” said Rep. Jeff Knight (R-Lebanon), who sponsored the change.

If signed into law by Governor Greitens, the bill would also prohibit lab-grown meat from using common language to describe the products. Lab-grown meat, also called “clean meat” is produced through a process called cellular agriculture. It’s done by taking a few animal cells (such as a swipe from a chicken feather) and then “grows” the meat in a process similar to making beer instead of raising and slaughtering animals for their meat. Clean meat is cited as a revolutionary technology that can not only address the ethical issues in traditional livestock production but also environmental and human health concerns. While there’s no lab-grown meat commercially available yet, several companies are working toward launches in the coming months as production costs continue to drop.

Missouri’s decision comes after a similar ruling was passed in France that will prohibit the use of words commonly associated with animal products from describing non-animal alternatives. The biggest category in this growing market segment is the nondairy milk category, now estimated at nearly $3 billion in global sales.

According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Rep. Deb Lavender (D-Kirkwood), noted that many vegetable products are inherently referred to as “meat” — coconut, jackfruit, and other nuts, for example. And a growing number of consumers are switching to plant-based diets for health reasons.

“We need to embrace the future,” Lavender said. “There are many people who are eating differently than they used to.”

But it’s this shift in dietary habits that have livestock producers seeking to thwart the growth of plant-based meat and dairy products in the first place. Last year, Senator Tammy Baldwin (R-WI) introduced the Dairy Pride Act (Defending Against Imitations and Replacements of Yogurt, Milk, and Cheese To Promote Regular Intake of Dairy Everyday Act) aimed to prevent the use of those terms on popular nondairy products. The recent congressional spending bill approved in March included direction for the FDA to take action against producers of nondairy products using language common on animal-based dairy.

Labels aren’t likely to deter the rising interest in vegan options, however.  “Why would a consumer say ‘it’s no longer being called almond milk so I’m going to go back to drinking dairy’?” Plant Based Foods Association Executive Director Michele Simon told Organic Authority last year. “If ‘milk’ was the only world on a container of almond milk, that could be a problem,” says Simon. “But they’re not doing that. No company is doing that.”

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Related on Organic Authority

French Government Moves to Ban Words Like ‘Milk’ and ‘Meat’ on Vegan Food Labels
DAIRY PRIDE Act Churns Up More Controversy Over Outdated Definitions
Vegans are Taking Over the Trillion-Dollar Meat Industry (Yes, Real Meat)

Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites OrganicAuthority.com and EcoSalon.com, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better. www.jillettinger.com.