Oh shit.
Image: FoodCollection (Getty Images)

Remember when fake meat was made of some unnatural rubberized soy loaf? Things have changed rapidly, and in the last few years the category of “non-meat that looks and kinda tastes like meat” has become massively popular. So much so that the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association is feeling the heat and taking pre-emptive measures.

According to USA Today, the lobbying group for the beef industry has filed a petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, asking it to define what can and can’t be called meat. A spokesperson for the Cattlemen’s Association says, “we do see improper labeling of these [alternative meat] products as misleading.”

The implications of this petition isn’t clear, but we do know that terms such as “plant-based meats” are gaining traction. And beef patty-lookalikes such as Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat are no longer confined to the vegetarian case in a far corner of the supermarket; they’re being stocked alongside animal-based meats (the fact that we have to preface with “animal-based” illustrates the state of meats in 2018).

We’re no legal scholars, but it seems the biggest hurdle to this petition taking hold is how far the government can regulate commercial speech. What precedent would such an action set: Would almond milk producers have to stop calling itself milk? Can Chicago deep dish legally use the term pizza?