Plant-based meat substitute Tofurky garnered a small win in a food label censorship battle against cattle ranchers and vegan and vegetarian food brands.
A federal court blocked the state of Arkansas from enforcing a law that fines food companies up to $1,000 each for labeling meat alternative products with words like “burger,” “roast” and “sausage” to describe food that is not derived from animals, like veggie burgers, despite also being labled “vegan,” “veggie” or “plant-based.”
The American Civil Liberties Union, the Good Food Institute and the Animal Legal Defense Fund sued Arkansas in July on behalf of Oregon-based Tofurky, which produces tofu, quinoa and other plant-based burgers and sausages, challenging the censorship law as unconstitutional. The state of Arkansas, meanwhile, argued that the law is necessary, citing that consumers could be confused about whether or not a veggie burger comes from a cow. The court’s block on the meat label censorship law will remain in effect while the court case proceeds. Arkansas’ law was enacted this year and is similar to other labeling laws that have passed recently in states like Mississippi, South Dakota and Louisiana.
“I am thrilled by the Court’s ruling today, but not particularly surprised. The actions of the Arkansas state legislature were a betrayal of their duty to their constituents and a blatant perversion of the purpose of government,” Jaime Athos, chief executive officer of Tofurky, said in a statement Wednesday.
“Unfortunately, it is a little early to break out the champagne because this injunction currently only protects Tofurky in Arkansas, and there are many other plant-based companies that are still at risk there and many other states have passed similarly unconstitutional legislation,"
Sales of plant-based meat alternatives have surged 8 percent singe August, while chicken, pork and beef sales remained stagnant, according to Nielsen data reported by the Wall Street Journal. And many of those consumers also eat meat: Ninety-eight percent of meat alternative buyers also buy meat, according to a separate Nielsen report.
Lobbying groups for beef producers have called out some alternative meat companies’ marketing tactics. There have been 45 bills introduced in 27 states that challenge food labeling of plant-based products to restrict them from calling their foods “meat” or “milk,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
“We don’t believe they should be able to use the term beef, and they should be marketing their products on the positive attributes of their products and not by disparaging our products — specifically Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat,” Colin Woodall, CEO of the Colorado-based National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a trade group, told FOX Business in October. “Don’t use the term beef, because you’re not beef.”
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Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, the makers of plant-based burgers on sale at grocery stores and at fast-food chains like Burger King, White Castle, Dunkin and KFC, target meat-eating consumers looking to eat less meat and diversify their protein intake. Their products are marketed as being environmentally friendly alternatives.