Nebraska Could Be Next in Line to Define What the Word ‘Meat’ Really Means

January 13, 2019, 8:53 PM UTC

Several months ago, Missouri became the first U.S. state to regulate product labels with the term “meat” on them. Now Nebraska lawmakers are looking to do the same.

Nebraska’s farm groups are pushing for protection against “fake meat”—products that are plant-based, insect-based, or lab grown. If a proposed bill becomes law, it would be a crime to promote or sell a product as meat that doesn’t come from livestock or poultry, the Associated Press reports.

Nebraska is one of the nation’s top states for the production of livestock, and related sales generate an estimated $12.1 billion for the state’s economy, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2016 data. The state also produced the most red meat in 2017 and had the most feed cows last year, according to the AP.

It would make it a crime to advertise or sell something “as meat that is not derived from poultry or livestock.”

State Sen. Carol Blood backs these farm groups in hopes for the betterment of Nebraska and its future agricultural growth in the U.S.

“I’m not bringing this bill to tell people what they can and can’t eat,” Blood told the AP. “All I’m asking for is truth in advertising. It’s clear that meat comes from livestock, and livestock is our livelihood in Nebraska.”

However, producers of plant-based alternatives and scientists of meat growing labs are fighting back. The Good Food Institute, the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and plant-based food company Tofurkey filed a federal lawsuit against the Missouri meat law. AP reports that they argue the law unfairly stifles competition and critics of the Nebraska bill are infringing on the free-speech rights of companies that produce vegetarian alternatives to real meat.

Jessica Almy, director of policy for Good Food Institute, believes the Nebraska bill could result in confusion.

“The bill would censor food labels and create consumer confusion where there is none,” Almy said to the AP. “You can’t censor speech just to promote one industry’s financial success.”