Plant-based and Lab-grown Meat Could Get Clear Labeling in Missouri

Missouri could be the first state to enact legislation that would result in clear labeling for plant-based and lab-grown meat products. ( Wyatt Bechtel )

A proposal passed in the Missouri House would require makers of plant-based and lab-grown meat to clearly label those products as not originating from livestock. If the law is signed by the Governor, the Show-Me State would be the first state to enact such a labeling rule.

On April 26, House Committee Bill 16, an omnibus agriculture bill was passed by a vote of 107-38. The bill contains a number of agriculture related provisions like fuels standards testing, stormwater discharge requirements and animal care training. The bill is backed by Missouri Farm Bureau, the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association and the Missouri Pork Association.

One provision sponsored by Rep. Jeff Knight (R-Lebanon) drew national attention after reporting by the Associated Press brought to light the issue. The provision by Knight called House Bill 2607, largely focuses on misleading or deceptive methods to market traditional meat products.

A part of the bill prohibits “misrepresenting a product as meat that is not derived from harvested production livestock or poultry.”

This means manufactures of plant-based and lab-grown meat would need to label their products clearly if selling those products in Missouri.

Missouri Cattlemen's Association (MCA) member Andy McCorkill testified during the legislative hearing saing the bill “ensures the integrity of the meat supply” in Missouri.

“Calling (plant-based products) meat without knowing the inspection process, the nutrient profile of these products, food safety or anything is a disservice to farmers, ranchers and consumers. It is important these products don't misrepresent our industry,” McCorkill says. “We care for our livestock and invest a lot of time and money in ensuring the consumer has a safe, nutritious and affordable product.”

MCA previously came out in support of the legislation when it was proposed with Executive Vice President Mike Deering and President Greg Buckman both speaking out about the opposition of Redwood City, California- based, Impossible Foods.

“This association is not in any way whatsoever opposed to plant-based proteins or other safe food technologies,” Deering says. “We are opposed to deceiving consumers and misrepresenting a product as something it's not.”

“Lab grown, imitation food products or even plant-based proteins should not use nomenclature that confuses the consumer and misrepresents their products as something that it's clearly not,” Buckman says.

The bill has been opposed by plant-based organizations with Jessica Almy of the Good Food Institute saying federal law already prohibits companies from misrepresenting their products.

“A phrase like ‘plant-based meat’ clearly communicates that a food is plant-based and how a food is meant to be prepared and consumed,” Almy says. “Second, creating a Missouri-specific prohibition would create an untenable situation where products sold in Missouri must be labeled differently from products sold in all 49 other states.”

Prior to the House of Representatives’ vote, Rep. Deb Lavender (D-St. Louis) told The Intercept she thought the agriculture industry was trying to protect market share.

“People are not going to mistake a veggie burger for a hamburger,” Lavender says. “And so, to think that we need to have anybody selling foods in Missouri have a different label is just a little bit unreasonable.”

The bill will now move onto the Missouri Senate and has a May 18 deadline to reach Gov. Eric Greitens’ (R-St. Louis) desk to be signed.

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