JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A bill making vast changes to the statutes regulating the inspection and sale of meat is facing two court challenges as the new laws are set to go into effect. The two changes being challenging is adding “captive cervids” to the definitions involving meat and a prohibition of marketing non-meat products as meat.

The measure under scrutiny is Senate Bill 627 which was passed by the Missouri General Assembly on May 17 and signed by then-Gov. Eric Greitens on June 1, 2018.

The Conservation Commission and its director, Sara Pauley, filed a lawsuit in Cole County Circuit Court against Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley and Missouri Department of Agriculture Director Chris Chinn in an attempt to stop the law. Judge Jon Beetem was assigned the case.

A new law set to go into effect Tuesday that deals with meat inspection has been challenged in court with a group claiming it conflicts with the Missouri Conservation Commission’s current authority.

Under the current Missouri law, meat is defined as “any edible portion of livestock or poultry carcass,” and a commercial plant is defined as a place where livestock or poultry is slaughtered.  

SB 627 amends certain definitions to include “captive cervids” in addition to livestock and poultry. Cervid refers to any member of the deer family, Cervidae, comprising of deer, caribou, elk, and moose.

“The Missouri Legislature’s attempt to regulate captive cervids to allow for them to be slaughtered and sold as meat or meat products clearly and undoubtedly conflicts with the Conservation Commission’s regulation prohibiting commercial establishments in Missouri from buying, possessing, transporting or selling white-tailed deer or mule-deer,” states the lawsuit. Currently, the Conservation Commission prohibits the commercial sale of meat from white-tailed deer and mule deer.

According to the lawsuit, the conflict of law comes from adding cervids to the definition. Under the Conservations Commission’s constitutional authority, they are the body to regulate game and wildlife. A recent Missouri Supreme Court ruling affirmed that captive cervids fall under the Conservation Commission purview.

But the Department of Agriculture currently has authority to regulate livestock and poultry — including meat inspection and such. Adding cervids to the definition would then place deer also under the Department of Agriculture’s regulations, the lawsuit argues.

The other lawsuit challenging the SB 627 was filed in U.S. District Court by a coalition of groups and companies that say the law violates the First Amendment, as well as discriminates against out-of-state manufacturers to protect Missouri meat producers.

Under the revised version of the statute, any product not derived from a cow, hog, turkey, or an animal with two- to four-legs would be prohibited from being marketed as meat in Missouri.

The lawsuit argues that the law has nothing to do with consumer protection and there is no evidence of consumer confusion about the source of plant-based “meats.” Instead, the claim is that the law is aimed at protecting livestock producers from competition.

Alisha Shurr is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University. Contact Alisha at alisha@themissouritimes.com.