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Meat Wars: The Unsettled Intersection of Federal and State Food Labeling Regulations for Plant-Based Meat Alternatives


Nov 04, 2020

Due to technological advances and the rise in popularity of plant-based meat alternatives (i.e., Beyond Meat, the Impossible Burger, etc.), nearly thirty states have proposed or enacted legislation to limit which foods can be labeled with terms that have traditionally been used to describe products derived from animal carcasses (i.e., meat, burger, sausage, etc.). Fueled in many places by the cattle industry, the states legislation proposes stricter guidelines than the federal counterparts in an attempt to specifically prohibit plant-based, cell-based (lab-grown meat), and even insect-based products from being labeled in meat-associated terms. To date, lawsuits have been filed by opponents to the enacted laws in three states (Missouri, Arkansas, and Mississippi), challenging the laws as unconstitutional on First and Fourteenth Amendment grounds. All lawsuits are currently pending at the time of this writing. This Note will use the recent litigation regarding the dairy wars (i.e., lawsuits regarding laws that limit almond/soy/non-dairy beverages use of the term milk) as a parallel comparison to the meat wars, and proposes a potential resolution to the labeling of plant-based meat alternatives dispute that allows those products to continue using meat-related terms by amending federal guidelines.

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