Press "Enter" to skip to content

Missouri leaders push for clear labeling of ‘fake meat’

  

Attorney General Eric Schmitt and several agriculture leaders made their voices heard as the federal government considers new labeling standards for manufactured meats. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agreed to jointly oversee “fake meats” manufactured using cultured cells from livestock and poultry. The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) sought comments on how to label products made using cultured cells beginning in September. Comments will close on Dec. 2. 

A state law defines meat as “any edible portion” of poultry or livestock and makes it illegal to “misrepresent a product as meat that is not derived from harvested production livestock or poultry.” Missouri was the first state to enact a statutory definition in 2018, with more than a dozen following suit in the past few years.  

Schmitt urged the USDA to adopt Missouri’s definition as a model for its regulations. 

“As Missouri’s Attorney General, I’ve made it a priority to protect Missouri’s farmers and ranchers,” Schmitt said. “Changing labeling standards to allow lab-made ‘fake meat’ to be marketed as the real meat that’s brought to market by Missouri’s farmers and ranchers is dishonest and hurts those same farmers and ranchers who have tended to their land and cattle for generations. USDA should reverse their plan to implement this rule change.”

Schmitt championed Missouri’s law in court and prevailed earlier this year. Turtle Island Foods, a company that produces vegetarian and vegan alternatives to turkey, sued the state to stop the law from going into effect and appealed the case after the Western District Court sided with the state. A federal appeals court sided with the state and left the law intact.

The Missouri Farm Bureau also filed comments with the USDA, advocating for standards that would ensure customers know what they purchase. President Garrett Hawkins said Missouri’s agriculture groups were united in their support for clear and honest labeling for consumers. 

“This discussion has been around for several years, and Missouri has been the epicenter of the discussion that led to it becoming more of a national issue,” Hawkins told The Missouri Times. “We want to make sure our fellow consumers have abundant choices when they go to the grocery store, farmers market, wherever they choose to purchase groceries to feed their families. We also believe it should be a level playing field in the marketing of products, and we want to make sure consumers have enough knowledge to make an informed decision as to what they are purchasing.” 

The Missouri Cattlemen’s Association also weighed in on the proposal, noting it supports competition but Missouri farmers have “zero tolerance for dishonesty.”

The USDA sought comments on specific topics regarding artificial meats, including what stakeholders would consider misleading, economic data, and consumer research on the topic. While the comment period for regulatory issues is typically 60 days, the USDA extended the window for an additional 30 days to allow stakeholders additional time to chime in on the topic. 

“This [advance notice of proposed rulemaking] is an important step forward in ensuring the appropriate labeling of meat and poultry products made using animal cell culture technology,” USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Sandra Eskin said in a statement. “We want to hear from stakeholders and will consider their comments as we work on a proposed regulation for labeling these products.”