Nebraska eyes regulations on the word ‘meat’
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.