A Missouri law set to go in effect today is being challenged in court by vegan meat producer Tofurky along with nonprofit organizations The Good Food Institute, the ACLU of Missouri, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
The law aims to ban plant-based and vegan food producers from using common meat industry favored terms to describe products such as burger, roast, or ribs.
The lawsuit says the ruling, which was approved by the Legislature in May and signed by former Gov. Eric Greitens, violates the First Amendment and is particularly discriminatory against out-of-state producers.
“Americans don’t like censorship, and they don’t like the government picking winners and losers in the marketplace. We’re confident that the court will overturn this anti-competitive and unconstitutional law,” Bruce Friedrich, executive director of the Good Food Institute, which represents companies that produce plant-based and laboratory-grown clean meats, said in a statement.
The groups say the laws are aimed at protecting the state's meat industry from the growing market for vegan proteins. Products such as Tofurky's signature holiday roast, deli slices, and "ham" have been seeing notable sales spikes in recent years. The most recent data put the plant-based protein market at a 24 percent sales increase over the previous twelve months.
The lawsuit also comes on the heels of the recent announcement of factory opening in Columbia, Missouri, for Beyond Meat, the Southern California manufacturer of vegan meat products including the immensely popular Beyond Burger. Since the company launched the patty in 2016 its sold more than 11 million of the vegan burgers. It opened the factory in Missouri this summer, creating more than 250 jobs in the region and will help the company to expand its production after recently announcing global expansion plans. The company already employs 200 people in mid-Missouri.
“Missouri is putting its thumb on the scale to unfairly benefit the meat industry and silence alternative producers,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “This law violates various constitutional principles, including free speech – which should be a concern for everyone, regardless of diet.”
The Attorney General's Office says it's ready to defend the law and will "take legal action as appropriate under the circumstances to protect Missouri consumers,” a spokesperson told the St. Louis Post Dispatch. Violators of the law could face fines up to $1,000 and a year in prison.
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