Missouri Is the First State to Declare: Meat Is Meat

August 2018

Missouri is America's first state to enact a law to prohibit lab-grown meat products or meat substitutes from being marketed as meat. Bill SB 627 was signed into law by former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens before leaving office on June 1, 2018. The law, which took effect on August 28, allows a product to be marketed or labeled as meat only if it is derived from livestock or poultry. Violation is a class A misdemeanor, punishable up to one year in jail as well as a fine up to $1,000.

The law aims to protect the meat nomenclature and prevent consumer confusion, especially in light of the extensive inspection and regulation that meat products undergo. The U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has claimed jurisdiction over lab-grown food products, but it has not yet begun regulating lab-grown meats. The FDA held a public meeting in July 2018 to begin discussion on how to regulate lab-grown meats, and specifically how to label them. 

Missouri's law is already sparking controversy. A coalition of groups and companies filed suit to challenge the constitutionality of the law, claiming that it violates the First Amendment and discriminates against out-of-state manufacturers. Vegetarian food-maker Tofurky claimed that it would have to change its packaging to comply with the law. Similarly, the Good Food Institute, a nonprofit that promotes plant-based and clean meat alternatives, has raised concerns about (1) labeling products for Missouri differently from products for the other 49 states, and (2) the burden that a “patchwork” of state labeling laws would place on companies.

The issue is also being brought up at the federal level. In February 2018, the U. S. Cattleman’s Association (USCA) petitioned the U. S. Department of Agriculture to allow “beef” and “meat” labels only for cattle or animals that are “born, raised, and harvested in the traditional manner.” The USCA worries that consumers will be confused about whether meat comes from an animal or is derived from alternative proteins or artificially grown in laboratories.

Similar concerns are being addressed in Europe. France passed legislation earlier this year that prohibits vegetarian products from bearing designations normally associated with products of animal origin. In June 2017, the European Union (EU) Court of Justice ruled that purely plant-based products cannot be marketed with terms reserved for animal products, such as “milk,” “cream,” “butter,” or “cheese.” 

Other states could opt to enact meat-marketing laws similar to Missouri's. Producers of vegetarian food products or meat substitutes should carefully examine how they market and label those products. If you need assistance complying with Missouri's marketing and labeling requirements, please contact one of our Advertising, Promotions, & Social Media attorneys.