Will Missouri's new labeling law criminalizing 'meat' hurt the plant-based sector?


Cathy Siegner, FoodDive 

Jan. 8, 2019


Dive Brief:


·         According to a Missouri law that went into effect Jan. 1, anyone who uses the word "meat" on food labels or in ads in the state could be fined and receive a jail sentence unless the product came from harvested livestock or poultry.

·         The state was sued in federal court even before the proposal became law. The plaintiffs on the case are the Good Food Institute, Animal Legal Defense Fund, American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri and the plant-based brand Tofurky. Their complaint argues the Missouri law is unconstitutional and would criminalize the word "meat," but the case is still pending.

·         Tofurky hasn't yet changed its labels to comply with the law, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. CEO Jaime Athos told the Missouri newspaper that his Oregon-based company could opt not to sell its products in the state if it meant a fight over package labeling. But Beyond Meat CEO Ethan Brown told VegNews the firm's Beyond Burger and Beyond Sausage will continue to be sold there.


Dive Insight:


Missouri is the first state in the country to pass such a bill. The new law includes language prohibiting "misrepresenting a product as meat that is not derived from harvested production [of] livestock or poultry."


The state legislature approved the proposal as part of an omnibus agriculture bill in May, and it was supported by the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association as a way to reduce shopper confusion and protect local ranchers. But ACLU attorney Tony Rothert told Mother Jones that the true motivation behind the legislation was to protect the meat industry from competition.


Enforcement of the new law is in limbo until the federal complaint is decided, but the bill sponsor, Republican state Rep. Jeff Knight, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he wants the Missouri Department of Agriculture to begin enforcement immediately. Knight said his goal with the proposal was to assist Missouri cattle, pork and chicken producers who have paid through a checkoff system for marketing and outreach activities.


But one Missouri retailer said she doesn't believe the new law is going to change much...


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