Ag Policy Blog

Cattlemen's Groups Champion Bill Defining Beef and Imitations

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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A bill has now been introduced in Congress that would prevent alternative proteins from being called "beef" and would place the word "imitation" before any alternative product calling itself meat that was not from an animal. (DTN file photo)

Some cattlemen groups often don't agree on much, but they can agree the word "beef" should only come from cattle, and not a plant-based or lab-grown alternative.

Both the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the U.S. Cattlemen's Association praised the introduction of the Real Marketing Edible Artificials Truthfully (MEAT) Act, by Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Kansas, and Rep. Anthony Brindisi, D-N.Y. Marshall stated the bill would "codify the definition of beef for labeling purposes" and provide enforcement measures for USDA if FDA does not take action against confusing protein claims.

While "beef" and "beef products" are defined under the Beef Research and Information Act," the legislation that created the beef checkoff, the definition for beef and beef products does not have another federal definition. The Real Meat Act would change the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act will require the word "imitation" for any product that is not derived from or does not contain meat.

“Consumers should be able to rely on the information on food labels they see on the shelves to be truthful and not deceptive,” Marshall said. “For years now, alternative protein products have confused many consumers with misleading packaging and creative names for products. With this bill, consumers can be sure that the meat products they are buying are indeed real meat.”

Brindisi said, "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. This bill is about safety and transparency, and will make sure that meat-lovers and vegans alike have the transparency and honest labels that can allow customers to make their own decisions."

Several states have passed laws restricting plant-based or lab-grown proteins from using terms such as beef or meat. A federal judge in early October declined to place a preliminary injunction on Missouri's law, the first passed in the country. The company that makes Tofurkey products is suing the state, along with the Good Foods Institute.

Jennifer Houston, president of NCBA, said, “A growing number of fake meat products are clearly trying to mislead consumers about what they’re trying to get them to buy. Consumers need to be protected from deceptive marketing practices, and cattle producers need to be able to compete on a fair, level playing field. We want to thank Congressmen Brindisi and Marshall for leading the way on this very important issue."

Lia Biondo, director of policy and outreach, for USCA, said USCA members have played a critical role in the championing not only labeling of beef products "born, raised and harvested in the USA," but also on labeling alternative protein products, Biondo said.

“The Real MEAT Act satisfies part of USCA’s ask to USDA FSIS in its 2018 petition for rulemaking by defining ‘beef’ as a product that is derived exclusively from the flesh of a bovine animal, Biondo said. "USCA is pleased to see Rep. Brindisi and Rep. Marshall join the effort in establishing a federal beef definition and clear, transparent regulations governing the labeling of plant-based proteins. USCA will be urging co-sponsors in the House and bill introduction in the Senate."

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