In an attempt to end deceptive labeling practices for alternative protein products, U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R., Neb.), introduced the Real MEAT Act. The bill would clarify the definition of beef for labeling purposes, eliminate consumer confusion resulting from misbranding, and ensure that the federal government is able to enforce the law.
The Senate bill is a companion to H.R. 4881, which was introduced by U.S. Representatives Roger Marshall (R., Kan.) and Anthony Brindisi (D., N.Y.) in October, and championed by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn.
The NCBA found in a study that 55% of consumers did not understand that “plant-based beef” wasn’t beef at all, but instead an entirely vegan or vegetarian product. This bill would help to clear the confusion by codifying a definition of beef for labeling purposes and allowing the USDA to take action against misbranded products.
“Beef is derived from cattle—period. Under USDA, beef undergoes a rigorous inspection and labeling process, but plant-based protein products that mimic beef and are sometimes labeled as beef are overseen by the FDA instead. These products are not held to the same food safety and labeling standards as beef. Americans deserve to know what’s on their dinner plate. The Real MEAT Act will protect consumers from deceptive marketing practices and bring transparency to the grocery store,” said Fischer.
The Real MEAT Act would codify the definitions of “beef” and “beef products.” It would further ensure that imitation meat products have the word “imitation” in the same size and prominence immediately before or after the name of the food and a statement clearly indicating that the product does not contain meat. Lastly, it would strengthen the government’s ability to enforce the law by requiring that the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) submit notice within 60 days to the Secretary of Agriculture if a product is found to be mislabeled as beef. If HHS fails to do so, the Secretary of Agriculture would be allowed to treat the product as mislabeled.
“It’s clear that fake-meat companies are continuing to mislead consumers about the nutritional merits and actual ingredient composition of their products. We commend the efforts of Senator Fischer on introducing this legislation, which would end deceptive labeling of fake meat products and allow cattle producers to compete on a level playing field,” said NCBA president Jennifer Houston.
Fischer noted that NCBA has been a leader on this issue. “I am thankful for their strong support of the Real MEAT Act, which will protect consumers from deceptive marketing practices and bring transparency to the grocery store."
The Nebraska Cattlemen thanked Sen. Fischer for her work on the bill. “Real beef, raised by actual farmers and ranchers in the state of Nebraska creates $13.8 billion total economic impact to our state. Protecting the legacy of these farmers and ranchers by ensuring imitation proteins do not capitalize on beef’s good name and reputation is, and will continue to be, a priority for the Nebraska Cattlemen,” said Nebraska Cattlemen President Ken Herz.