Missouri Is First US State To Enact Law On What Can Legally Be Called “Meat”

Looks like this chicken doesn't make the grade. Koy_Hipster/Shutterstock

Aliyah Kovner 29 Aug 2018, 11:02

Missouri has become the first US state to enact a law banning the use of the word “meat” on retail products that do not come from animal flesh, according to USA Today.

The new legislation, which was signed into law on June 1 but did not take effect until yesterday, had been strongly pushed by lobbyists from the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, who cited concerns that customers may be confused when the word appears on labels for plant-based foods.

Yet, as CBS reports, the cattle group’s main apprehension is how the impending availability of "clean meats", aka lab-grown meats – products made of animal tissue cells cultured outside of a living body – is going to affect the livelihoods of their members. Scientists have been working to perfect methods for large-scale production of these guilt-free alternatives for years, and following recent advances in cost-efficiency and flavor (early attempts were far from tasty), it appears that the first options could be hitting the shelves before the end of this year.

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

Now, any manufacturer offering food products in Missouri may be fined up to $1,000 and sentenced to up to one year in prison if they use "meat" on any product "not derived from harvested production livestock or poultry”. 

A vast selection of plant-based "meat" products. www.hollandfoto.net/Shutterstock

But the plant-based food industry and animal rights advocates are striking back. On Monday, the vegetarian food giant that owns the Tofurky brand filed an injunction against the new statute in Missouri Federal Court, arguing that that restricting use of "meat" violates their First Amendment rights and that the bill was written with the blatant intent of commercially harming the meat industry's competitors. Their co-plaintiff is a Washington DC-based group called the Good Food Institute.

The complaint also states that “[c]onsumers are not likely to be confused by use of the term “meat” to refer to foods other than slaughtered animals because, historically, the term “meat” has had multiple meanings, including to describe the edible part of any food, such as a fruit or nut.”

"I have always envisioned Tofurky serving a greater purpose beyond the plate, acting as an engine for global change," said Tofurky CEO Jaime Athos in a statement about the suit. "Using our privately-held position to extinguish threats to legal definitions of terms like “meat,” is one way we can further our mission to help reduce global dependence on animal agriculture; therefore, improving environmental sustainability, animal welfare, and human health."

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Earlier this summer, the FDA announced plans to crack down on use of the word "milk" on products that do not come from lactating animals.

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