The United States Cattlemen Association (USCA) filed a 15-page petition with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) this week to coerce the organization to define the term “beef” in anticipation of the debut of clean meat (meat grown without animal slaughter in a lab setting). The petition asked the USDA to define beef as products that “come from cattle that have been born, raised, and harvested in the traditional manner, rather than coming from alternative sources such as a synthetic product from plant, insects, or other non-animal components and any product grown in labs from animal cells.” Jessica Almy, director of policy at food advocacy firm The Good Food Institute (GFI) believes the petition is a violation of rights granted to organizations by the First Amendment and is an attempt to derail potential competition to the meat industry. “The USCA is clearly trying to stifle competition,” Almy told VegNews. “If the USCA really believed that their products were superior to plant-based and clean meat, they’d welcome a little healthy competition. But, instead, they petitioned the USDA for a harsh enforcement policy of unconstitutional naming conventions. Their approach is a direct attack on a diverse food supply, a free market, and consumer choice.” Last year, the dairy industry similarly petitioned the government to define the term “milk” vis-à-vis the Dairy Pride Act to include only the excretions derived from lactating cows—in an attempt to thwart the booming plant-based milk industry—with little success. “Just as the dairy industry responded to robust competition from plant-based milks by trying to claim a monopoly on the term ‘milk,’” Almy said, “so too is the USCA basically asserting that they own the term ‘meat.’ And again, that is simply not true. Soy milk, almond milk, and coconut milk are all milks that you can pour on your cereal or add to your coffee—as are milks made from peas, oats, and other plants. And there’s nothing in meat that’s exclusive to the animal kingdom. Meats made from plants have the same cultural and culinary significance as any other center-of-the-plate protein.” GFI will file a petition to counter that of USCA in the next month, and Almy believes that the USDA will “either ignore or rightly reject the Cattlemen’s petition” in the meantime.
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