Ne­braska eyes reg­u­la­tions on the word ‘meat’

Regina Leader-Post - - NEWS - GRANT SCHULTE

LIN­COLN, NEB. • More than four months af­ter Mis­souri be­came the first U.S. state to reg­u­late the term “meat” on prod­uct la­bels, Ne­braska’s pow­er­ful farm groups are push­ing for sim­i­lar pro­tec­tion from veg­gie burg­ers, tofu dogs and other items that look and taste like real meat.

Ne­braska law­mak­ers will con­sider a bill this year to pre­vent com­pa­nies that pack­age and sell food from ad­ver­tis­ing plant-based, in­sect-based and lab-grown prod­ucts as meat. Sim­i­lar mea­sures are pend­ing in Ten­nessee, Vir­ginia and Wyoming.

The is­sue strikes a par­tic­u­larly strong chord in Ne­braska, one of Amer­ica’s top states for live­stock pro­duc­tion, where cars roll down the in­ter­state with “Beef State” li­cense plates and the gov­er­nor each year pro­claims May as “Beef Month.”

Farm groups have found an un­usual ally in state Sen. Carol Blood, a city-dwelling veg­e­tar­ian from the Omaha sub­urb of Belle­vue. Blood, who grew up on a farm, said she in­tro­duced the mea­sure be­cause agri­cul­ture is Ne­braska’s largest in­dus­try and needs to be pro­tected for the good of the whole state.

“I’m not bring­ing this bill to tell peo­ple what they can and can’t eat,” she said. “All I’m ask­ing for is truth in ad­ver­tis­ing. It’s clear that meat comes from live­stock, and live­stock is our liveli­hood in Ne­braska.”

Ne­braska led the na­tion in com­mer­cial red meat pro­duc­tion in 2017 and had the most feed cows as of last year, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture. Live­stock and live­stock prod­uct sales gen­er­ated an es­ti­mated $12.1 bil­lion for the state’s econ­omy in 2016, ac­cord­ing to the USDA’S most re­cent avail­able data.

The mea­sure is cer­tain to face re­sis­tance from food pro­duc­ers that sell plant­based al­ter­na­tives, as well as those work­ing with the emerg­ing sci­ence of meat grown by cul­tur­ing cells in a lab. Crit­ics say the bill in­fringes on the free-speech rights of com­pa­nies that pro­duce veg­e­tar­ian al­ter­na­tives to real meat.

The Good Food In­sti­tute, the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union of Mis­souri, the An­i­mal Le­gal De­fence Fund and plant-based food com­pany To­furkey have filed a fed­eral law­suit chal­leng­ing the Mis­souri law. They ar­gue the law un­fairly sti­fles com­pe­ti­tion.

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