Miyoko’s vegan butter defends its right to call itself butter

Illustration for article titled Miyoko’s vegan butter defends its right to call itself butter

The dairy lobby has declared war on plant-based products, urging politicians across America to enact stringent laws preventing the makers of “nut juice” from calling their products “milk” and laying the smackdown on any company that produces “butter” from something that doesn’t come out of a cow’s udder. In December, the California Department of Food & Agriculture informed Miyoko’s Kitchen—a Petaluma-based manufacturer of vegan cheeses and other “dairy-esque” products—it needed to immediately change the name of and redesign the packaging of its popular (and, in this writer’s opinion, outstanding) cultured vegan butter.

Advertisement

The reasoning set forth in the agency’s cease and desist letter is that “the product is not butter.” The letter stated that butter must be made exclusively from milk or cream, and it must also contain at least 80 percent milk fat. (It is unclear if the bureaucrat who drafted this letter has ever heard of peanut butter, almond butter, apple butter, or I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.) In addition, the agency informed Miyoko’s that it needed to remove any sort of imagery from its website and packaging that referenced animal agriculture—like this photo of a woman hugging a cow—saying that “dairy-related imagery” cannot legally be used to promote plant-based items that resemble dairy products. Miyoko’s is also banned from using the terms “cruelty free,” “hormone free,” and “lactose free,” as the dairy lobby the government feels that implies the products are made from actual dairy, which poses a threat to customers who choose not to read the terms “vegan butter” or “made from plants” that are prominently printed on the existing packaging.

Though the dairy lobby believes it can use its money, influence, and “alternative facts” to threaten a small business, The Mercury News, which also documents attempts by meat and dairy producers to combat plant-based alternatives, reports that Miyoko’s is not kowtowing to these capitalist shenanigan. The company has decided to sue the state of California, claiming its constitutional right to free speech is being violated, and that, in America, no one can stop anyone from posting pictures of women hugging cows. In the suit, Miyoko’s defends the offending photo, stating that it is “emphatically not an ‘image of animal agriculture,’ but instead conveys the message that by choosing a vegan option, consumers are protecting cows from harm in the dairy industry.”

Advertisement

The suit also counters the government’s claim that it cannot claim its products are “hormone free,” since plants, like all living things, produce hormones. “No reasonable consumer would think the label implies that Miyoko’s plant-based butter is free of substances that occur in all plants.”

To comply with the dairy lobby’s the government’s demands, Miyoko’s claims they would need to invest over $1 million in new packaging. But their suit is about more than just the cost of doing business; the suit avers that these regulation “significantly obstruct plant-based producers’ ability to convey their message.”

Allison Robicelli is The Takeout staff writer, a former professional chef, author of three books, and The People's Hot Pocket Princess. Questions about recipes/need cooking advice? Tweet @Robicellis.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

priest-of-maiden
Priest of Maiden

I have nothing against plant-based alternatives, but you don’t get to call them the same as what they’re replacing. They can all this product whatever they want, except for butter, because it’s not butter.

The reasoning set forth in the agency’s cease and desist letter is that “the product is not butter.” The letter stated that butter must be made exclusively from milk or cream, and it must also contain at least 80 percent milk fat.

And they’re right. Words are important. Words have meanings. You don’t get to just redefine whatever you want. Butter is a dairy product. End of discussion.

(It is unclear if the bureaucrat who drafted this letter has ever heard of peanut butter, almond butter, apple butter, or I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.)

Fuck off. Do people buy any of those expecting to get dairy butter? No, they fucking don’t.

In addition, the agency informed Miyoko’s that it needed to remove any sort of imagery from its website and packaging that referenced animal agriculture—like this photo of a woman hugging a cow—saying that “dairy-related imagery” cannot legally be used to promote plant-based items that resemble dairy products. Miyoko’s is also banned from using the terms “cruelty free,” “hormone free,” and “lactose free,”

I agree with both those points.

Though the dairy lobby believes it can use its money, influence, and “alternative facts” to threaten a small business

What threats were issued? They’re asking that the company be honest in its packaging & product description.

The company has decided to sue the state of California, claiming its constitutional right to free speech is being violated

And they’ll lose because:

1) Nobody’s violated anybody’s free speech, nobody’s under arrest for this.
2) IT’S NOT FUCKING BUTTER!

In the suit, Miyoko’s defends the offending photo, stating that it is “emphatically not an ‘image of animal agriculture,’ but instead conveys the message that by choosing a vegan option, consumers are protecting cows from harm in the dairy industry.”

Give me a fucking break! You called it butter & put a fucking cow on the packaging. You’re intentionally trying to deceive people into buying your product while thinking it’s dairy-based.

To comply with the dairy lobby’s the government’s demands, Miyoko’s claims they would need to invest over $1 million in new packaging.

That’s what you get for trying to lie to consumers.

But their suit is about more than just the cost of doing business; the suit avers that these regulation “significantly obstruct plant-based producers’ ability to convey their message.”

Bullshit. Be accurate in your packing & description. It’s not butter because it contains no dairy. This isn’t complicated.