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Missouri becomes first state in U.S. to regulate use of the word ‘meat’

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Missouri becomes first state in U.S. to regulate use of the word ‘meat’


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On Tuesday, a law goes into effect that prohibits calling plant-based meat alternatives “meat.” The legislation is supposed to clear up shopper confusion. However, not everyone is on board.
USA TODAY

On Tuesday, Missouri becomes the first state in the country to have a law on the books that prohibits food makers to use the word “meat” to refer to anything other than animal flesh.

This takes aim at manufacturers of what has been dubbed fake or non-traditional meat.

Clean meat — also known as lab-grown meat — is made of cultured animal tissue cells, while plant-based meat is generally from ingredients such as soy, tempeh and seitan.

The state law forbids “misrepresenting a product as meat that is not derived from harvested production livestock or poultry.” Violators may be fined $1,000 and imprisoned for a year.

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A similar argument is unfolding on the federal level. 

The meat-substitute market is expected to reach $7.5 billion-plus globally by 2025, up from close to $4.2 billion in last year, according to Allied Market Research.

The Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, which worked to get the state law passed, has cited shopper confusion and protecting local ranchers as reasons for the legislation.

“The big issue was marketing with integrity and…consumers knowing what they’re getting,” said Missouri Cattlemen’s Association spokesman Mike Deering. “There’s so much unknown about this.”

The bill was signed into law by then-Gov. Eric Greitens on June 1.

On Monday, the company that makes Tofurky filed an injunction in a Missouri federal court to prevent enforcement of the statute, alleging that the state has received no complaints about consumers befuddled by the term “plant-based meats” and that preventing manufacturers from using the word is a violation of their First Amendment rights. Plus, it pointed out, “meat” also refers to the edible part of nuts and fruit.

The statute “prevents the sharing of truthful information and impedes competition,” according to documents filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri. “The marketing and packaging of plant-based products reveals that plant-based food producers do not mislead consumers but instead distinguish their products from conventional meat products.”

The co-plaintiff is the Good Food Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group.

Deering said he was surprised by the suit, because the primary target of the law was lab-grown meat.

Tofurky’s main ingredient is the the first two syllables of its name — tofu.

In June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that it would regulate lab-grown meat. Traditional animal proteins are the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Ernest Baskin, an assistant professor of food marketing at St. Joseph’s University, said consumers use the word “meat,” when applied to non-animal protein, as shortcut to understand how they eat the food they see on supermarket shelves.

“There’s a segment of consumers that doesn’t have to eat alternative products, but wants to,” he said. “In those cases, putting those options together in front of consumers gives them the thought that ‘Hey, maybe these two are similar. Maybe I can substitute.”



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Follow USA TODAY reporter Zlati Meyer on Twitter: @ZlatiMeyer

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