Long gone are the days where I would confess to practicing a vegetarian lifestyle, only to be met with blank stares and questions like, “Wait, do you eat potatoes? Corn? Ice cream?” Yes, yes, and duh—none of those are meat! Today’s shoppers are browsing grocery shelves with the intention of finding proteins that aren’t the traditional chicken, turkey, beef, and pork offerings. But with more options available to consumers than ever before, the question of what constitutes a “meat” product and where it is allowed to be sold in grocery stores—the deli case versus the produce aisle—is rocking our industry.
Last week, Tofurky filed a lawsuit in Missouri, a state that passed legislation that banned plant-based and lab-grown meat makers from marketing products with the term “meat,” defending its right to describe its products using the term “meat” as long as the packaging clarifies the ingredients.
“Last week, we took a stance,” Jaime Athos, CEO, said in an exclusive statement to Deli Market News. “The Missouri law, which took effect Tuesday, bars companies from labeling products as ‘meat’ if they’re not from ‘harvested livestock or poultry,’ We feel this law is unnecessary, assumes lack of consumer sophistication, and intends to slow the growth and accessibility of plant-based proteins.
“As a founder in our category, I feel it’s vital to champion the rights of our entire industry and stand-up for our market position. Demand for plant-based proteins has sky-rocketed domestically and abroad. As brands and products enter the market, we must assure a level playing field for all manufacturers, to allow consumers to clarify their preferences, by way of purchase intent each week.
“I have always envisioned Tofurky serving a greater purpose beyond the plate, acting as an engine for global change. Using our privately-held position to extinguish threats to legal definitions of terms like ‘meat’ is one way we can further our mission to help reduce global dependence on animal agriculture; therefore, improving environmental sustainability, animal welfare, and human health.”
According to a report by the New York Times, supporters of Missouri’s legislation, the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, said its concerns do not lie with products like Tofurky that clearly list ingredients as plant-based, but with the “emerging science of meat grown by culturing animal cells in a lab and whether they will disclose how they were made once they’re on the market.”
Will Tofurky’s lawsuit change the state of Missouri’s mind? Or will supporters like the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association push plant-based meats into a category all its own? Deli Market News will continue to report on developments as they relate to the deli, dairy, bakery, and specialty foods industry.