Lawsuit Challenges Missouri Law That Forbids Calling Vegan Products ‘Meat’

Missouri now has the dubious distinction of being the first U.S. state to regulate which products can call themselves “meat.” But a coalition of activist groups thinks that’s ridiculous — and they’re suing.

Alternative meat superbrand Tofurky banded together with the Good Food Institute, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union Missouri to file a complaint in federal court.

The coalition seeks a preliminary injunction preventing immediate enforcement of this new law, a permanent injunction on enforcement and a declaration that the statute is unconstitutional.

The new Missouri law penalizes “misrepresenting a product as meat that is not derived from harvested production livestock or poultry.” That language takes dead aim at all meat alternative products, as well as “clean meat” developed in a lab.

Misrepresenting? No one who buys these products thinks he or she is buying actual meat. We’re purchasing these items because we don’t want meat. Bruce Friedrich, Good Food Institute’s executive director, calls the situation “Orwellian.”

By the way, Merriam Webster’s dictionary cites as the first definition of meat: “[S]olid food as distinguished from drink” or “the edible part of something as distinguished from its covering (such as a husk or shell).” Not an animal to be found. Curious, isn’t it?

The ACLU-MO called enactment of the statute “a brazen attempt to stifle the growing grocery category of plant-based meat — and the coming market introduction of meat grown directly from cells without the need for raising and slaughtering animals, sometimes called ‘clean meat’…”

Here’s your problem, meat producers — you’re losing market share because more and more people have decided not to eat meat anymore. You’re not going to change that by forcing these companies to avoid the word “meat.” Sorry, but either way, you’re losing the battle for market share.

This statute creates confusion rather than resolving it. These meat alternative companies now have a tough time knowing how to describe what they’re selling. Where are the limits? Can they describe something as “chicken-flavored”? Can they describe texture as “meaty”? The law is just not clear. Perhaps the statute was designed to create such difficulties.

And that lack of clarity can be dangerous for companies like Tofurky.

A violation of this statute carries a penalty of incarceration up to one year and a fine of up to $1,000. Yes, the cattlemen don’t just want to impose their will with a fine. They literally want to send people to jail for daring to call non-animal products “meat” in Missouri.

That’s unreasonable, overbearing and outrageous. It demonstrates the level of fear out there in the meat-producing world over the rising popularity of alternative meats.

And popular they certainly are. The New York Times reports that the market value of alternative meats has increased from about $556 million in 2012 to $699 million in 2017.

It’s little wonder this industry is running scared. It should be, because its days are numbered.

“The Statute criminalizes Tofurky’s truthful and non-misleading speech and exposes the company to the substantial risk of prosecution for its speech,” argues the complaint. “[It] has forced new companies to consider creating one set of labels for Missouri and another set for other states, potentially raising cost to come to market.”

Did the Missouri meat industry create this conundrum by design? It seems likely.

If Missouri cattlemen and meat producers can’t beat these products in the marketplace, they’ve decided to gain the upper hand by making them harder to sell. Is that how capitalism is supposed to work — or are we more accurate when we call it “protectionism”? What happened to having a superior product?

The plaintiffs in this case are correct. Prohibiting plant-based companies from using the term “meat” on their packaging isn’t really intended to help a befuddled public. It’s meant to throw obstacles in front of plant-based meat producers to make it much more difficult to sell their products in Missouri.

There are so many reasons for the court to strike down this law. It unconstitutionally criminalizes speech based on its content. It prohibits meat alternative companies “from truthfully labeling, marketing, and advertising plant-based meat products in a manner that effectively describes them as replacements for conventional meat products.”

Come on, Missouri. Get it right. Sending someone to jail for honestly describing a product as a “meat” alternative is ludicrous and inappropriate.

Meat producers, this sort of law shows you for what you are — frightened, underhanded and confused about why we’re no longer buying meat.

Photo Credit: Lefteris kallergis/Unsplash


Dave f
Past Member 3 months ago

Good tell the truth and have nothing to fear.

hELEN hEARFIELD4 months ago


Daniel N
Daniel N4 months ago

thank you

Janis K
Janis K4 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

Dave f
Past Member 4 months ago


Joemar K
Joemar Karvelis4 months ago


Christine Stewart
Christine Stewart4 months ago

thanks. it is insulting to think that any of us are confused by labels like "soy milk" or vegan cheese- it is just describing the properties of the food. But if the state really wants to be a jerk about it, the product can still be called slices, crumbles, patties, etc...

Tania N
Tania N4 months ago

thanks for sharing

Tania N
Tania N4 months ago

thanks for sharing

danii p
danii p4 months ago

Thank you