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Proposed Bill Wants All Plant-Based Beef Labeled ‘Imitation’

Plus, New York City is likely to ban foie gras, and more news to start your day

A Beyond Burger package held up in front of a grocery case.
Beyond Meat and other companies that produce plant-based beef alternatives would have to label their products “imitation,” should a newly proposed bill successfully make its way through Congress.
Photo: Chie Inoue/Shutterstock

Real MEAT Act calls plant-based meat phony imitations

A new bipartisan bill requiring beef that’s not derived from cows (i.e., plant-based beef like Impossible Burgers) to be labeled “imitation” was proposed in Congress on Monday, Food Dive reports. The legislation, called the Real Marketing Edible Artificials Truthfully Act (or the Real MEAT Act), was introduced by Rep. Anthony Brindisi, a Democrat whose district covers a rural part of New York, and Rep. Roger Marshall, a Republican from Kansas.

The proposed bill, as currently written, suggests that slapping a prominent “imitation” label on plant-based beef would prevent “confusion” and “ensure that consumers can make informed decisions in choosing between meat products such as beef and imitation meat products.” Brindisi, in a statement by the United States Cattlemen’s Association obtained by Food Dive, emphasized this line of thinking: “American families have a right to know what’s in their food … Accurate labeling helps consumers make informed decisions and helps ensure families have access to a safe, abundant, affordable food supply.”

However, there’s little evidence that consumers are actually confused about the difference between plant-based and animal-based meat. In the dairy world, where the use of the word “milk” has similarly been a source of contention, the majority of consumers know that plant-based milk doesn’t contain dairy, per a survey from the International Food Information Council.

“This bill is a bald-faced attempt to get the government to police food labels to benefit the conventional meat industry, not consumers,” the Good Food Institute, a nonprofit that advocates for plant-based alternatives to animal products, told Food Dive. “Rather than let consumers decide the winners and losers in a free marketplace, this bill attempts to stigmatize plant-based foods.”

Currently, meat labeling laws vary state by state. With the rising mainstream popularity of plant-based “meat” products from companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, the battle over what is allowed to be called meat has escalated, with several lawsuits this summer challenging state laws that ban plant-based and cell-cultured meat producers from using the word “meat,” “beef,” “chicken,” and “sausages.”

And in other news…

  • The New York City Council is expected to pass a bill that bans the sale of foie gras — a win for animal-rights groups, and a loss for local restaurants, vendors, and farmers who produce foie gras. [Bloomberg]
  • Forget soy and pea “burgers” — say hello to plant-based “steaks” made from fungi. [New Food Economy]
  • Mars Inc. promised to make its chocolate greener, but deforestation has only gotten worse. [Washington Post]
  • Vineyards — with their well-manicured and well-watered vegetation, as well as uniform layout — could play greater roles as small fire breaks as wildfires worsen in California. [SF Chronicle]
  • Jennifer Aniston reveals on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show that she was once a “terrible waitress,” just like her Friends character Rachel. [Insider]
  • Donald and Melania Trump’’ White House Halloween was as weird as you might think! [The Cut]
  • Expectation: A cute little pizza Jack-o’-lantern from Papa John’s. Reality:

All AM Intel Coverage [E]