In news that might force a smile beneath the crinkled brow of avowed vegan-hater Gordon Ramsay, officials in Missouri have passed a law banning the use of the word "meat" to describe anything other than flesh from an animal. The law, which prevents food vendors and distributors from labeling products as meat if they aren't "derived from harvested production livestock or poultry," went into effect Tuesday.
Now, offenders could receive a $1,000 fine or spend a year in jail for labelling a lab-grown or plant-based product as if it were genuine animal protein.
The law was passed with the help from the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, according to a USA Today report. It aims to ensure all meat-substitutes are marketed with integrity, in an effort to protect consumers from who might unwittingly consume plants or tofu masked in a veneer of flesh. Most, if not all meat alternatives are clearly labeled as such however, as words like "veggie," "tofu," or "plant-based" indicate a difference between meat and poultry and their vegetarian counterparts.
Meat-substitutes are part of a ballooning industry in the United States, worth $699 million according to The New York Times. Advances in the industry have given rise to lab-engineered alternatives, which use animal cells to simulate bleeding flesh like a burger or steak. For Mike Deering, spokesman of the Missouri Cattlemen's Association, rising popularity of fake meat represents a grave threat to the livestock and ranching industry, as he told the Times: "We have problems with products that piggyback on products that our families have put their blood, sweat and tears into.”
Adding perhaps a tinge of skepticism to Deering's words are the FDA's own projections for meat consumption in 2018, which posit that the average consumer will eat about "222.2 pounds of red meat and poultry in 2018," surpassing the previous record set in 2004.
But vegetarians and their ilk aren't taking the news lying down. The parent company of Tofurky has already filed an injunction in Missouri federal court to prevent the statute's enforcement. Three other organizations have also joined the legal effort against the state, including the Good Food Institute, the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri and the Animal Legal Defense Fund. At the center of Tofurky's complaint, is the fact that the state of Missouri hasn't received any complaints about inaccurate labelings of its product.
As the food fight is only on the cusp of a drawn-out legal battle, Good Food Institute Executive Director Bruce Friedrich assessed the situation with a grim tone in an interview with the Times: “They are threatening to throw people in jail for calling veggie burgers ‘veggie burgers.' "It's Orewellian."