Missouri legislators passed a bill aiming to make it easier for consumers to tell the difference between plant-based meat and real meat.
Senate Bill 627, coming from House Bill 16’s approval in April 2018, was supported by Missouri’s pork producers, the Missouri Farm Bureau and the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association. It passed May 17, 2018, and took effect Jan. 1 of this year.
The bill addressed labeling of products using the word “meat”. Specifically, the bill restricts the use of the word “meat” on products made from sources that are not livestock or poultry. This affects both plant-based and clean-meat products.
Clean-meat is animal tissue grown in a lab through the use of cell culturing. Plant-based products include items like tofu patties and other meat substitutes made from plants.
When asked, President of the Collegiate Farm Bureau and Northwest senior Mariah Forck spoke as a representative for the Northwest branch of the Missouri Farm Bureau.
“One big thing the Farm Bureau stands for is (plant product companies) are labeling (their product) meat, and it is not,” Forck said. “It is completely false advertising and false labeling, and it is cheating the consumer out.”
Vice President of the Collegiate Farm Bureau and Northwest sophomore Ryan Talkington said plant product companies use practices that can harm the consumer’s ability to make an educated choice.
“Some companies are going as far as demanding that the retail store put (their product) next to hamburger patties,” Talkington said. “(Plant product companies) are kind of sneaky about the way they are saying ‘plant-based.’ It could be really easy for a consumer to not know what is going on and think that maybe it is just grass-fed beef.”
Forck said consumers are being fed ideas that could cause harm to their ability to choose knowledgeably.
“Consumers are being told to fear science and most agriculture production techniques,” Forck said. “But, are expected to believe that a meat-like product grown in a petri dish is supposed to be better than the natural, traditional product.”
Ultimately, Talkington said the labeling law is beneficial in its movement towards honesty for the sake of consumer knowledge.
“I think we just need to be very honest about what is going on,” Talkington said. “Who knows what is going into (clean-meat) unless you are the person who is actually making it, but you can go anywhere in Missouri and find a guy who raises beef cattle and say, ‘Hey, what are you feeding it?’”
Junior agricultural science major Jake Meyer said he felt the new law was justified.
“I think it is important to at least have some broad distinctions on (labels),” Meyer said. “I think it is somewhat important for people to know where their food comes from.”
Meyer said he wished for greater emphasis on the packaging when it comes to the difference between meat, plant-based and clean-meat products.
“I know when I am shopping I am like, ‘Ooh, sausage,’” Meyer said. “Like that is what I was looking for, and then I will get home sometimes and be like, ‘Oh, well, I mean, if you actually look at it, it is 580 calories, actually made out of broccoli.’”
Meyer said he knew there was specific labeling on the packages, but he believed they failed to satisfy.
“I feel like (plant-based) should be more of a highlighted term,” Meyer said. “You should be able to really see that part where it is a vegetable.”