Faux meat at cen­ter of real le­gal bat­tle

Ne­braska to mull bill on def­i­ni­tions, la­bel­ing

Las Vegas Review-Journal - - NATION - By Grant Schulte The As­so­ci­ated Press

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 defin­ing meat as “any ed­i­ble por­tion of any live­stock or poul­try, car­cass, or part thereof ” and ex­clud­ing “lab-grown or in­sect or plant-based food prod­ucts.” It would make it a crime to ad­ver­tise or sell some­thing “as meat that is not de­rived from poul­try or live­stock.”

Sim­i­lar mea­sures aimed at meat al­ter­na­tives are pend­ing in Ten­nessee, Vir­ginia and Wyoming. They come amid a de­bate over what to call prod­ucts that are be­ing de­vel­oped us­ing the emerg­ing sci­ence of meat grown by cul­tur­ing cells in a lab. Sup­port­ers of the sci­ence are em­brac­ing the term “clean meat” — lan­guage the con­ven­tional meat in­dus­try strongly op­poses.

The is­sue strikes a par­tic­u­larly strong chord in Ne­braska, one of the na­tion’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 Good Food In­sti­tute, the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union of Mis­souri, the An­i­mal Le­gal De­fense Fund and plant-based food com­pany To­furkey have filed a fed­eral law­suit chal­leng­ing the Mis­souri law. They ar­gue the law un­fairly sti­fles com­pe­ti­tion.

Nati Harnik The As­so­ci­ated Press

A con­ven­tional beef burger, left, sits next to “The Im­pos­si­ble Burger,” a plant-based prod­uct, at Stella’s Bar & Grill in Belle­vue, Neb., on Fri­day. A Ne­braska bill would make it a crime to ad­ver­tise or sell plant-based prod­ucts as meat.

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