Real meat labeling legislation heats up

by Troy Bishopp

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With the popularity of the 21-ingredient “Impossible Burger,” the plant meat industry is being grilled about its right to even use the term “meat.” Much like the dairy industry’s fight for their real milk designation against the plant-based milks, animal agriculture has advocates who are taking a stand against confusing consumers. After all, cows have been turning plants into nutritious beef and dairy products for millennia.

“With vegan foods surging into the mainstream, the U.S. plant-based food space grew 11% between 2018 and 2019 to $4.5 billion. Pushback has grown among those who oppose the shift,” reported Beth Greenfield, senior editor of Yahoo Lifestyle.

In changing the narrative of real meat, U.S. House of Representatives members Anthony Brindisi (D-NY 22nd District) and Roger Marshall (R-KS 1st District) have introduced the Real Marketing Edible Artificials Truthfully (MEAT) Act of 2019 to combat the rise of misleading labels on alternative protein products.

The Real MEAT Act will categorize the definition of beef for labeling purposes, reinforce existing misbranding provisions to eliminate consumer confusion and enhance enforcement measures available to the USDA if the FDA fails to take appropriate action. Predominantly, the text of the bill states that “any imitation meat food product, beef or beef product shall be deemed to be misbranded unless its label bears…the word ‘imitation’ immediately before or after the name of the food and a statement that clearly indicates the product is not derived from or does not contain meat.” To read the full bill text visit bit.ly/2Noek40 .

Both the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association support the proposed legislation. “A growing number of fake meat products are clearly trying to mislead consumers about what they’re trying to get them to buy,” said NCBA President and Tennessee cattlewoman Jennifer Houston. “Consumers need to be protected from deceptive marketing practices, and cattle producers need to be able to compete on a fair, level playing field.”

USCA members have played a critical role in the effort to ensure truth in labeling, not only on beef products born, raised and harvested in the U.S.A., but also on alternative protein products. “The Real MEAT Act satisfies part of the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association ask of the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service that in its 2018 petition for rulemaking, ‘beef’ is a product that derives exclusively from the flesh of a bovine animal. USCA is pleased to see Representative Brindisi and Representative Marshall join the effort in establishing a federal beef definition and clear, transparent regulations governing the labeling of plant-based proteins. USCA will be urging co-sponsors in the House and bill introduction in the Senate,” said Director of Policy and Outreach Lia Biondo.

“American families have a right to know what’s in their food,” said Brindisi. “Accurate labeling helps consumers make informed decisions and helps ensure families have access to a safe, abundant, affordable food supply. This bill is about safety and transparency, and will make sure that meat-lovers and vegans alike have the transparency and honest labels that can allow customers to make their own decisions.”

“Consumers should be able to rely on the information on food labels they see on the shelves to be truthful and not deceptive,” Marshall said. “For years now, alternative protein products have confused many consumers with misleading packaging and creative names for products. With this bill, consumers can be sure that the meat products they are buying are indeed real meat.”

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