Coalition Files Injunction Against Missouri’s Meat Label Law

Tofurky, the ACLU, GFI, and Animal Legal Defense Fund say the Missouri meat law is unconstitutional.

Coalition Files Injunction Against Missouri's Meat Label Law
Credit: iStock/sergeyryzhov

Vegan meat company Tofurky along with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, The Good Food Institute, and the ACLU of Missouri, have filed a preliminary injunction with the U.S. District Court, Western District of Missouri, in Jefferson City earlier this week.

The injunction is aimed at prohibiting the state from preventing vegan and cultured meat producers from using common meat terms such as “steak”, “burger”, or “sausage” when describing their plant-based products.

The groups say the law violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. 

“More and more consumers are rejecting the animal agriculture industry – which relies on intense animal cruelty – in favor of plant-based alternatives,” Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells said in a statement. “But instead of responding to the demand for ethically produced products, certain players in the meat industry convinced a state legislature to criminalize truthful speech.” 

Under the Missouri law, which went into effect earlier this year, vegan food manufacturers that use meat industry terms on their packaging could face steep fines and even jail time for failure to remove those terms from packaging.

“The state of Missouri shouldn’t criminalize speech in order to privilege one set of producers over another,” says Good Food Institute Executive Director Bruce Friedrich. “The people of Missouri like free speech and free markets, and this law tramples on both. We’re convinced that it will not stand.”

While cultured cell-based meat, often called lab-grown or “clean” meat, is not yet commercially available, a number of producers are set to hit the market soon. The “meat” is produced using actual animal cells, but there’s no need to slaughter animals for their meat. A cell sample is taken from a live animal, often from a tissue swab, and that cell sample allowed to reproduce and grow into muscle tissue with the help of nutrients in a process similar to brewing beer.

But despite its animal origins, the Missouri law would also prevent the nascent industry from accurately marketing its meat to consumers.

“The government cannot restrict truthful speech,” said Tony Rothert, legal director, ACLU of Missouri. “Everyone who cares about the Constitution should be concerned about that, regardless of what they put on their plate.” 

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