Ranch­ers steak their claim to ‘meat’


WASH­ING­TON— Food la­bels such as “veg­gie burg­ers” and “To­furky” prompted a new Mis­souri law mak­ing it il­le­gal to stick meat­like names on prod­ucts that aren’t made from meat — pit­ting cat­tle­men against veg­e­tar­i­ans in a food fight poised to spread across the coun­try.

The bat­tle is heat­ing up as new foods flood the mar­ket, from veg­e­tar­ian items that em­u­late an­i­mal pro­teins to soon-to­come lab-pro­duced meat that never saw the in­side of a barn and makes ranch­ers fear for their liveli­hoods. Even though the Mis­souri law is be­ing chal­lenged in court, a hand­ful of other cat­tle-rais­ing states, in­clud­ing Iowa and Mon­tana, see it as a prece­dent they may want to fol­low.

“This is go­ing to be an enor­mous is­sue,” said Doug Far­quhar, en­vi­ron­men­tal health pro­gram di­rec­tor at the Na­tional Con­fer­ence of State Leg­is­la­tures. “The Cat­tle­men’s As­so­ci­a­tion is push­ing sev­eral state leg­is­la­tures to do this, de­pend­ing on the out­come” of the Mis­souri law­suit.

“Mis­souri said if you want to call it ‘meat’ it has to be from live­stock,” he said. “No­body has a re­ally good def­i­ni­tion of what meat is — cell-based meat, clean meat, lab meat? The names are all over the board.”

The Mis­souri mea­sure was folded into an over­all agri­cul­ture bill ap­proved by the leg­is­la­ture and signed June 1 by Gov. Eric Gre­it­ens, a Repub­li­can, as he was on his way out the door as gover­nor. (He re­signed that day in the wake of an ethics in­ves­ti­ga­tion.) The change was to take ef­fect in Au­gust but the Ore­gon-based com­pany To­furky and the Wash­ing­ton, D.C.- based Good Food In­sti­tute filed suit to block its im­ple­men­ta­tion on First Amend­ment and other grounds. The group asked for the law to be thrown out.

Jes­sica Almy, di­rec­tor of pol­icy for the in­sti­tute, which pro­motes al­ter­na­tives to meat, said la­bels like “veg­gie burger,” which are out­lawed in the new statute, are not con­fus­ing to con­sumers. “Con­sumers know ex­actly what they are buy­ing,” she said. “No­body owns lan­guage.”

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