It's Not Meat if It Doesn't Come From an Animal: Missouri Law Takes Effect

Missouri is now the first state to prevent food producers from using the word "meat" to describe anything other than animal products.

The legislature passed a bill in May according to Mother Jones that said "meat" cannot be used to describe anything that is "not derived from harvested production livestock or poultry." The law took effect on Tuesday.

Food producers found in violation of the legislation can be fined $1,000 and imprisoned for a year.

The law affects producers of lab-grown—or clean—meat, which is made from cultured animal tissue cells, and plant-based proteins, which may be marketed as meatless meat.

Conventional meat producers praised the measure.

"The use of traditional nomenclature on alternative products is confusing to consumers and weakens the value of products derived from actual livestock production," The Missouri Cattleman's Association Executive Vice President Mike Deering wrote in a press release in May.

Producers of nontraditional meat products were less enthused. The company that creates Tofurkey filed an injunction in Missouri federal court on Monday, claiming that the law violated the First Amendment.

"The marketing and packaging of plant-based products reveals that plant-based food producers do not mislead consumers but instead distinguish their products from conventional meat products," the court filing said.

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The completed plant-based hamburger is displayed during a media tour of Impossible Foods labs and processing plant in Redwood City, California. A Missouri law prohibits food producers from using the word "meat" to describe anything that doesn't come from an animal. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach

Jessica Almy, the director of policy at the Good Food Institute, one of the plaintiffs that filed the injunction, told MotherJones earlier this year that the legislation was not needed. "Misrepresentation is already prohibited by federal law; the intent of this bill is to censor labeling terms in plant-based products," Almy said.

Missouri's measure comes as vegan and vegetarianism are gaining popularity, according to the Guardian. A Nielsen global survey conducted last year found that 39 percent of Americans are eating more plant-based foods.

Veganism is promoted by animal rights proponents as a way of eating more ethically and by environmental activists as a means of decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.

A similar consideration of non-traditional meat products is taking place at the federal level. In February, the U.S. Cattlemen's Association filed a petition in the Department of Agriculture seeking that "meat" be defined, CNBC reported.

The association argued that the production of proteins marketed as meat could hurt the meat industry.

"I think it actually could help us more than it could hurt us because it starts the national dialogue around what really is meat, and if the origin of meat really matters to the consumer," said Ethan Brown, the CEO of Beyond Meat, a company that makes plant-based meat substitutes.

In June, the Food and Drug Administration said it would regulate meat grown in labs.

It's Not Meat if It Doesn't Come From an Animal: Missouri Law Takes Effect | U.S.