Meat me in St. Louis: Missouri becomes first state to regulate usage of word “meat”

Illustration for article titled Meat me in St. Louis: Missouri becomes first state to regulate usage of word “em/emmeat”em/em
Photo: sergeyryzhov (iStock)

Our cultural definition of “meat” has expanded greatly in recent years, as companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods create plant-based burger patties and sausages that taste and feel eerily similar to animal-based counterparts. Back in February, we told you how the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association were lobbying hard to not allow the usage of “meat” to market plant-based or lab-grown meats.

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Whether you believe this is of legitimate concern, a C.Y.A. defensive measure, or jabberwocky from a powerful interest group, their efforts have broken through—in Missouri.

On Tuesday, a law went in effect in the Show Me State that prohibited meat-substitute and lab-grown proteins companies from selling their product as meat. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch notes that the law, signed in June by former Missouri Gov. Eric Grietens (who resigned amid sexual misconduct allegations), carries a $1,000 fine for violators and—holy cow—up to a year in prison.

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The law was heavily pushed by the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, which according to USA Today, cited confusion in the marketplace as a reason for supporting the legislation, as well as protecting farmers and meat producers.

Not surprisingly, a number of groups including those representing the plant-based companies, have come against the law. On Monday, a lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court that claims the legislation violated First Amendment rights.

This issue of food and semantics sound familiar: Last month, a similar discussion about whether milk had to come from animals elicited this corker of a quote from F.D.A commissioner Scott Gottlieb: “An almond doesn’t lactate.”

Kevin Pang was the founding editor of The Takeout, and director of the documentary For Grace.

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DISCUSSION

This is one of those situations where I’m not really rooting hard for either side. The law is bogus overboard (fucking prison time for what boils down to a dispute over marketing? Really?) and I’m not exactly sympathetic to big meat producers in general. But at the same time, for the people producing meat substitutes, just suck it the fuck up and be honest. Have the strength of your convictions and stand behind your products. If its as good as you claim it is, it’ll naturally develop its own customer base over time.

Of course, I’m really considering whether or not this is a preemtive measure and if there was an abundance of real-world examples of meat substitutes trying to pass themselves off as the real deal, or it was more a case of people simply not reading labels closely enough.