Meat is Meat is Meat

September 5, 2018

Last week, Missouri became the first State in the Nation to ban the use of the word “meat” on any product labels that do not come directly from an animal. This in effect bans any plant-based or lab-grown product labels to carry the word “meat” on any of their packaging.

Missouri Senate Bill 627 & 925 states that “[n]o person advertising, offering the sale or selling all or part of a carcass or food plan shall engage in any misleading or deceptive practices, including, but not limited to, any one or more of the following . . . misrepresenting a product as meat that is not derived form harvested production livestock or poultry.” This has been codified in Missouri Revised Statutes § 265.494(7). A violation of the law carry’s with a possible fine up to $1,000 and or imprisonment for one year.

This law will affect vegan, vegetarian, and lab based products that utilize the word “meat.” So as can be expected, this law is now being challenged. Vegan brand Tofurky and food-advocacy group Good Food Institute (GFI) filed suit in the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Missouri. The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri and the Animal Legal Defense Fund are also supporting the lawsuit.

The complaint alleges that Missouri Revised Statute § 265.494(7) is unconstitutional violating the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment, the Dormant Commerce Clause and the Due Process Clause. The argue that the law is “a content-based, overbroad, and vague criminal law that prevents the sharing of truthful information and impedes competition by plant-based and clean-meat companies in the marketplace . . . [nor does it] protect the public from potentially misleading information.”

The plaintiffs point to ties between the animal agriculture industry and the Senators who introduced the language, in addition to the fact that the “Missouri Cattlemen’s Association proposed the language of the Statute in its initial form” to argue that the Statute was introduced to “protect the animal agriculture industry from competition form plant-based meat and clean meat producers” and to “commercially [harm] the plant-based meat and clean meat industries.” The supporters of the law argue that this will help consumers by removing any confusion and allows consumers to know whether

Plant-based meats are food that have a similar texture, flavor, and appearance of meats derived from slaughtered animals; whereas, clean meats are made from muscle tissue cultured in-vitro from animal cells, otherwise referred to lab grown meats. Missouri law defines meat as “any edible portion of livestock, poultry, or captive cervid carcass or part thereof.” More specific definitions of the types of meat and poultry are outlined in Missouri Revised Statutes §§265.300, 265.490.

In the complaint, the Plaintiffs argue there is no point for the statute to ban the use of the word “meat.” They argue that the Office of the Missouri Attorney General has not received any complaints from consumers who purchased plant-based meats believing it to be actual slaughtered animal meat.  Adding further, they argue that over the decades plant-based producers have been using terms like meat to describe their meatless products, there have been no consumer-protection based lawsuits in the state of Missouri, or any other state, regarding consumer confusion.

In addition, the plaintiffs argue that their product labeling is not misleading as it clearly indicates their products as either plant-based, meatless, vegetarian, or vegan. Moreover, the plaintiffs argue that meat has been used to describe other edible foods that are not derived from slaughtered animals such as meat of a fruit or a nut supporting their claim that consumers are not confused by “meat.” They also that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration use the term “meat” when referring to part of a nut or fruit.

This lawsuit can have greater implications around the country as it will be a testing ground for whether laws defining meat that ban meatless product companies form using certain terms can stand constitutional rigor.

You can read the complaint here. The defendants have yet to file their answers in response to plaintiffs assertions.

You can follow the Docket: 2:18CV04173

Image Source: REUTERS/Beyond Meat

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