There’s a battle brewing over fake meat in the great state of Missouri, where the state’s House of Representatives passed an agricultural bill on Monday that seeks to prevent companies from using the word "meat" in their marketing material to refer to plant-based products.
The casualties of such a law, as the New Food Economy notes, would primarily be companies whose flagship products are vegetarian “meat” substitutes that purportedly tastes as good as actual meat—I’m looking at you, Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat. It'll likely spare Gardenburger's and Boca Burger's sad, dry simulacrums of beef. (Sorry, Boca Burger!)
The bill, which you can read in full here, is now under consideration by the Senate, who has until May 18 to reach a decision. It seeks to bar anyone who advertises or sells meat from "misrepresenting a product as meat that is not derived from harvested production livestock or poultry."
The bill is reportedly the brainchild of House Representative Jeff Knight, a Republican representative who once worked as a livestock auctioneer and allegedly wants to protect state ranchers he worries may be collateral damage of mis-marketing products derived from products other livestock. It’s also the handiwork of the the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, who reportedly drafted the language for the bill and has previously pushed for the legislation to "ensure the integrity of the meat supply in the state."
The matter of what to call meat substitutes has become a point of contention globally in recent months. In late April, France outright banned the word "meat" and analogous words like "steak" and "sausage" from appearing in descriptions for vegetable-based products.
It doesn't appear that affected parties will go down without a fight in Missouri. Impossible Foods has reportedly gone on the defensive and hired three Missouri lobbyists to work against the bill. As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported last month, the Good Food Institute, proprietor of plant-based meat alternatives, has argued that implementing such a move within Missouri would be censorious.
“A phrase like 'plant-based meat' clearly communicates that a food is plant-based and how a food is meant to be prepared and consumed,” a spokesperson for the GFI told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
It would also cause an administrative headache, the spokesperson added. If this law were to pass, it would mean that companies would have to adjust their marketing materials on a state-by-state level, for Missouri would be the first state where such a law could conceivably take effect.
So, where's the beef? On Missouri's legislative floor until further notice.