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Tofurky, ACLU sue over new Missouri law regulating the usage of the word 'meat' in food products

The makers of Tofurky meat alternative products is teaming up with the ACLU, suing to stop a new Missouri law regulating meat labeling. (Image source: YouTube screenshot)

On Tuesday, Missouri became the first state in the U.S. to put limitations on what food manufacturers are allowed to label as "meat." But the American Civil Liberties Union has joined forces with the maker of Tofurky and advocacy groups to seek a permanent injunction against the regulation on the grounds of free speech.

What does the law say?

Under the new law, it is illegal to "[misrepresent] a product as meat that is not derived from harvested production livestock or poultry." Anyone found guilty of such an offense faces up to a $1,000 fine and a year in  jail.

The Missouri Cattleman's Association pressed for the new statute to be passed in an effort to protect ranchers and provide transparency in labeling.

"The big issue was marketing with integrity and ... consumers knowing what they're getting," spokesman Mike Deering told USA Today. "There's so much unknown about this."

Deering said the cattlemen aren't concerned with plant-based products that are obviously vegetarian alternatives, but rather the growing market of lab-grown animal cells being passed off as "meat."

So, what's the lawsuit about?

Turtle Island Foods is the maker of Tofurky products, which is a line of vegetarian products with labeling containing meat terms such as "hot dog" and "sausage." The company joined forces with the ACLU of Missouri, the Good Food Institute and the Animal Legal Defense Fund to fight Missouri's new law.

The lawsuit states, "Plant-based meats are foods that approximate the texture, flavor and appearance of conventional meats from slaughtered animals. They are served and consumed just like any other meats.

"The aim of the statute is to protect the animal agriculture industry from competition from plant-based meat and clean meat products."

"Clean meat" is the term used for lab-grown meat.

When the new bill was passed by Missouri's Legislature in May, Deering told the media that he expected other states to pass similar legislation to clarify meat labeling.

"I never imagined we would be fighting over what is and isn't meat," Deering said. "It seems silly. However, this is very real and I cannot stress enough the importance of the issue."

One last thing…
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