Missouri Passes Bill Defining 'Meat' to Exclude Plant-Based and Lab-Grown Foods
Missouri state lawmakers passed an omnibus agriculture bill on Thursday that includes a provision prohibiting plant-based products from being labeled as "meat."
This measure would ban companies from using the term "plant-based meat" to describe their products. It would also prevent any future lab-grown products that hit the market from using the labeling.
The change was approved on a 125-22 vote and was backed by the state's pork producers, the Missouri Farm Bureau and the Missouri Cattlemen's Association, the St. Louis Dispatch reported.
Critics see the act as an attempt from the beef lobby to clamp down on the $5 billion "fake" meat industry, which has boomed from the public's increasing appetite for healthier, more humane and environmentally sustainable food products.
A recent Nielsen poll found 23 percent of consumers want more plant-based proteins on the shelves. HealthFocus International also found that 60 percent of U.S. consumers said they are reducing their consumption of meat-based products.
Earlier this year, Tyson Foods, one of the largest meat companies in the U.S., announced it is ramping up its investment in lab-grown animal protein in response to growing demand for meat worldwide. The company's venture capital arm purchased a minority stake in Memphis Meats, a San Francisco-based "clean" meat startup.
Still, Big Beef perceives meatless meats as a threat to the industry. Major national trade bodies such as the United States Cattlemen's Association, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the National Farmers Union have each petitioned the United States Agricultural Department over the labeling issue.
Missouri will be the first state in the country to enact such legislation if the bill, sponsored by state Sen. Brian Munzlinger, is signed into law. The state's House already passed their own version.
The act "prohibits misrepresenting a product as meat that is not derived from harvested production livestock or poultry."
However, "misrepresentation is already prohibited by federal law; the intent of this bill is to censor labeling terms in plant-based products," Jessica Almy, director of policy at the Good Food Institute, a nonprofit that promotes plant-based and clean meat, noted to Mother Jones.
She added that the term "plant-based meat" already makes it clear that a product is made from plants, and banning the term would "present a serious hurdle to manufacturers trying to describe their products."
The state's bill sends a signal to other states to introduce similar legislation, said Mike Deering, the executive vice president of the Missouri Cattleman's Association.
"This isn't a Missouri issue. This is about protecting the integrity of the products that farm and ranch families throughout the country work hard to raise each and every day," Deering said in a statement. "I never imagined we would be fighting over what is and isn't meat. It seems silly. However, this is very real and I cannot stress enough the importance of this issue. We are beyond pleased to see this priority legislation cross the finish line."
Missouri's bill is akin to a measure announced in France this month that bans food producers from labelling plant-based products as a meat item.
Deering added that he does not oppose plant-based or lab-grown products. Rather, he wants to reduce customer confusion over the labeling.
"This legislation does not stifle technology, but it does ensure the integrity of our meat supply and reduces consumer confusion. We must ensure that those products do not mislead consumers into thinking those products are actually meat produced by farm and ranch families," he said.