The Real MEAT Act and Food Labeling: What You Need to Know
As the war between meat alternative brands and the agriculture industry continues to wage on, new legislation has begun to emerge. The Real MEAT Act, a new bill proposed by New York Representative Roger Marshall and Anthony Brindisi, a Republican representative from Kansas, would prevent meat alternatives from being labeled as “meat”. The Real MEAT Act, “MEAT” an acronym for “marketing edible artificials truthfully” is an attempt to avoid consumer confusion regarding the difference between actual meat products and meat alternatives. To market a meat alternative or plant-based meat truthfully, according to this new proposed bill, the plant-based meat product must be labeled as “imitation”.
But, Why now?
For years, veggie burgers and plant milks have peacefully co-existed with their animal-derived counterparts. And now, as plant-based meat alternatives that resemble the taste, texture and protein value of actual meat products, suddenly cattle ranchers and leaders in the dairy industry are suddenly in an uproar. Could it be possible that beef producers feel threatened by the growing number of fake meat products? What once was an appropriate substitute for the vegan or vegetarian has suddenly become an important issue, and one can’t help think that it must come down to the bottom line.
According to data provided by the Good Food Institute, plant-based meat alternatives such as Beyond Meat and Impossible (among others) account for 2% of all retail packaged meat sales. Not to mention, the plant-based milk category, which now has amounted to approximately 13% of total retail milk sales.
What You Need to Know
If you are a manufacturer of a plant-based meat alternative, this state-level legislation could impact how you label your alternative protein products. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association is jockeying to level the playing field by demanding that plant-based manufacturers consider the federal definition of beef and meat, (yes, that’s a thing) when determining the appropriate labeling of their meat alternatives. In short the definition regards that beef is labeled as such because it was born of cattle. This is not the case in alternative beef products.
The argument — for labeling purposes— is that an unsuspecting customer may purchase an imitation meat food product unknowingly.
The Real DATA Speaks
The data speaks to the opposite. In regards to plant-milks, in a study conducted by the International Food Information Council, 3/4 of consumers know that plant-based beverages that are labeled “milk” do not actually contain cow’s milk.
While the U.S. Department of Agriculture has yet to define what would be considered deceptive marketing practices in regards to food labels on alternative protein products, data collection is leading still in favor of current labeling, with 75 % of responses standing behind the use of “milk” on plant-based milks.
The question remains: Is this truly a genuine effort behind the push of “marketing edible alternatives truthfully” or are ranchers shaking in their cowboy boots as more and more american families opt for a more plant-friendly diet?
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