Ethan Brown, CEO of California-based Beyond Meat announced this week that the plant-based brand will continue to sell its popular products, including the Beyond Burger and Beyond Sausage, in the state of Missouri after it passes the Missouri Meat Advertising Law (MMAL). The new legislation is based on bipartisan Senate Bill 627—an amendment to the state’s existing agriculture and conservation laws—that passed in the state in May by a vote of 125 to 22 that aims to limit the use of “meat” terminology to animal-derived products. Under MMAL, plant-based and clean-meat companies must use specific language to relay to consumers that its products are derived from plants and/or non-traditional agriculture. However, MMAL’s verbiage allows for plant-based brands to use words such as “meat,” with the condition that an appropriate qualifier precedes the term. “We are satisfied we were able to reach an understanding with the state of Missouri that affirms [that] our use of a ‘plant-based’ qualifier on our packaging is fair and accurate,” Brown said. “We believe that we are building meat directly from plants, and that consumers are not only accepting of this innovation, but enthusiastically embracing it.”
The new law—which is supported by the state’s pork producers, Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, and Missouri Farm Bureau—has sparked controversy among some of the state’s lawmakers, who believe that it was not proposed to protect consumers from mistakingly purchasing plant-based products when looking for animal meat, but to unfairly burden brands that are competing with traditional animal agriculture. “I find it a little bit disrespectful of consumers,” Representative Tracy McCreery (D) said. “You guys are just trying to protect your marketing money.”
Companies which sell plant-based products in Missouri will be required to modify their packaging by January 1, 2019 to be in compliance with MMAL or face a $1,000 fine and up to one year in jail. “Free speech, commerce that is unstifled by unnecessary government interference, and consumer choice are foundations of our country,” Brown said. “To this end, we are pleased that the legislation did not go so far as to disallow our use of the descriptor plant-based meat, and we plan to continue operating under the newly released guidelines, selling our delicious plant-based burgers, sausages and beyond.”
Last week, iconic vegan brand Tofurky—along with co-plaintiffs food-advocacy group Good Food Institute (GFI), animal-rights organization Animal Legal Defense Fund, and human-rights group American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri—filed a lawsuit against the state of Missouri on the basis that the new law is unconstitutional in that it criminalizes free and truthful speech and unfairly discourages competition.