What is in a name? A great deal, as far as the US state of Missouri is concerned. A new state law went into effect today banning manufacturers from marketing lab-grown and plant-based meat substitutes with terms that previously implied meat products.
In short, no burgers made of tofu or sausages made of vegetables. If it didn’t come from an animal, it isn’t meat in Missouri.
The law — the first of its kind in the country — was championed by the state’s powerful beef industry. The legislature approved it in May. “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,” Mike Deering of the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association said in a statement when the law passed.
The group hopes other states will follow Missouri’s lead.
The meat substitute industry, represented by the Good Food Institute, expressed its displeasure Monday with a federal lawsuit seeking to stop the law, claiming it is akin to censorship. “No one buys Tofurky ‘PLANT-BASED’ deli slices thinking they were carved from a slaughtered animal any more than people are buying almond milk thinking it was squeezed from a cow’s udder,” the institute said in a written statement.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund, which files lawsuits on behalf of animals and joined the Missouri case, accused the state’s politicians of picking sides in a gastronomic battle. “Missouri is putting its thumb on the scale,” said the fund’s Stephen Wells.
Missouri is not alone, no matter its motives. A similar debate is raging in Europe, where the EU’s Court of Justice last year ruled plant-based producers of dairy-like products cannot market with dairy terms such as cheese and yogurt. The French parliament approved a similar meat term ban earlier this year.