Under new wording, plant-based brands can use the word "meat" as long as it's presented with a prominent qualifier.

By Mike Pomranz
September 09, 2019
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

According to the Plant Based Foods Association, the retail market for plant-based products is currently worth $4.5 billion per year and growing. But though a July report suggested that those sales aren't necessarily coming at the expense of traditional meat, the old guard clearly doesn't want to let that kind of dough slip through their fingers. More recently, the mantra has seemingly shifted towards "if you can't beat them, join them": Last week alone, Hormel, Kellogg, and Kroger all announced new plant-based products. But plenty of meat groups have also looked to undermine the plant-based business as well, with one tactic focusing on labeling: Specifically, attempting to get laws passed that prevent plant-based brands from using terms like "meat," "milk," or the like.

These types of laws are still facing legal battles in places like Missouri and Arkansas, but at least one state has reportedly backtracked from their strict anti-plant-based stance: After a legal challenge in July, Mississippi has proposed rewritten labeling requirements that would allow plant-based foods to use the term "meat" as long as "one or more of the following terms, or a comparable qualifier, is prominently displayed on the front of the package: 'meat free,' 'meatless,' 'plant-based,' 'veggie-based,' 'made from plants,' 'vegetarian,' or 'vegan,'" according to a document linked to by Vox.

The new requirements would still require plant-based food products to "not be false or misleading" — which is essentially true of all products — so in theory, the new regulations would simply further protect consumers from being unclearly sold something as meat that was in fact meat-free. "They're commonsense rules," Mississippi Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson told the Associated Press. "We're doing exactly what we intended to do." He then took an opportunity to criticize the legal challenge to the previous incarnation of the regulations which was filed by the Plant Based Foods Association and vegan brand Upton's Naturals. "That whole lawsuit has been a waste of time," Gipson was quoted as saying, somewhat ignoring the fact that it has appeared to work. "They're just trying to raise money."

Gipson told the AP that the new wording will be open for public comment for nearly a month, and assuming no changes are needed after that period, he would issue an order for them to go into effect. Spokesmen for both groups behind the lawsuit reportedly confirmed to the AP that they approved of the current wording and would drop legal action if this proposal holds.

Advertisement