Laboratory-grown meat and plant-based meat imitation products, which have been coined “fake meat” by the meat industry, are being debated across the country and in Washington, D.C., but Missouri officially took a stance Thursday, becoming the first state to address the issue with legislation -- sending a message that may result in other states passing similar legislation.
An omnibus bill sponsored by Sen. Brian Munzlinger (R., Mo.), which sought to prohibit misrepresenting a product as meat that was not derived from harvested livestock, passed Thursday with a bipartisan 125-22 vote. The legislation, SB 627, carried in the House by Rep. Jay Houghton (R., Mo.), contains several provisions, including SB 977 sponsored by Sen. Sandy Crawford (R., Mo.), which is identical to HB 2607 in the House by Rep. Jeff Knight (R., Mo.).
Missouri Cattlemen's Assn. (MCA) executive vice president Mike Deering expects other state cattle organizations to lead legislation in their respective states.
"This isn't a Missouri issue. This is about protecting the integrity of the products that farm and ranch families throughout the country work hard to raise each and every day," Deering said. "I never imagined we would be fighting over what is and isn't meat. It seems silly. However, this is very real, and I cannot stress enough the importance of this issue. We are beyond pleased to see this priority legislation cross the finish line."
The current definition of meat in Missouri statutes is "any edible portion of livestock or poultry carcass or part thereof."
The definition excludes plant-based or even laboratory-grown food products from being considered meat, but Deering said the problem is that there is nothing definitive in state statute to prevent the misrepresentation of these products as meat.
The legislation that will now be sent to the governor for consideration prohibits "misrepresenting a product as meat that is not derived from harvested production livestock or poultry."
Deering said MCA does not oppose plant-based or laboratory-grown food products.
"This legislation does not stifle technology, but it does ensure the integrity of our meat supply and reduces consumer confusion. We must ensure that those products do not mislead consumers into thinking those products are actually meat produced by farm and ranch families," Deering explained. "The use of traditional nomenclature on alternative products is confusing to consumers and weakens the value of products derived from actual livestock production."
The passage of the legislation follows Wednesday’s vote by the House Appropriations Committee that supports giving the U.S. Department of Agriculture regulatory oversight of lab-grown meat substitutes.
MCA and the National Cattlemen's Beef Assn. believe USDA is best suited to ensure the safety and accurate labeling of these products.