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Not Fake News About Fake Meat

September 07, 2018
I'm tired of defending the media over phony charges of being dishonest and purveying fake news. So lets change the subject. Lets talk about fake meat.

Our state legislators had a major food fight earlier this year over the issue of labeling meat. They passed a law that strictly forbids "misrepresenting" any product as meat, if it does not come from an actual slaughtered animal.

Rep. Jeff Knight, R-Lebanon, was frank about his aim to nip in the bud the coming introduction of meat grown directly from cells, sometimes called "clean meat." The law that he sponsored also prevents plant-based meats and meat substitutes from being categorized as meat at your local grocery store.

Rep. Deb Lavender, D-Kirkwood, had a bone to pick with Knight. She said he and other legislators were just trying to save the bacon of animal farmers. She stressed that many people are moving toward plant-based diets for health, safe food and environmental reasons.

Red state lawmakers, influenced by lobbyists from the Missouri Farm Bureau and the Missouri Cattlemen's Association, were not persuaded by Lavender. She could probably argue until she was blue in the face. They insist that any new meat substitute is not simply a horse of a slightly different color.

These legislators passed a meat provision stating that if a product isn't derived from an actual chicken, turkey, cow or some other animal with two or four feet, it cannot be marketed as meat. And that provision naturally has had the state's pork producers in pig heaven.

However, passage of that provision was just more red meat for plaintiffs' attorneys. The lawyers soon bellied up from the bar to represent the objections of companies that are producing many vegetarian-based, meat-like products.

The lawsuit was filed last week in the U.S. District Court in Jeff City. It argues that the new law is designed to do only one thing: Unfairly tip the scales in favor of Show-Me-State pork, beef and poultry interests against plant-based food producers and state consumers.

The First Amendment is also at steak, or rather at stake, because the Missouri law is an attempt to silence plant-based meat producers and to bring blatant censorship to the grocery counter. Your local meat market should be a marketplace of ideas, or at least, an unfettered market for a variety of food labels.

The coalition of groups bringing the food labeling lawsuit include the ACLU of Missouri, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Good Food Institute, and the plant-based meat powerhouse Tofurky. Obviously, this is not some frivolous lawsuit. We're talking Tofurky here.

Don't think all the animal agriculture giants have dug in their hooves on the side of red state lawmakers. Tyson Foods and Cargill, both now invested in plant-based "clean meats," are finding cause with animal rights groups. Now ain't that a different "cattle of fish" for you?

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