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Coalition To Federal Judge: Stop Missouri From Enforcing New Meat-Labeling Law

Harvest Public Media file photo

The coalition behind a lawsuit challenging Missouri’s new meat-labeling law asked a federal judge this week to stop the state from enforcing it.

It’s a case with national implications, considering Missouri became the first state in the U.S. to restrict companies from “misrepresenting a product as meat” if it doesn’t come from a dead animal.

Supporters of the law, like the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, assert the law protects consumers. The MCA wasn't available for comment Wednesday, but the MCA has argued that consumers might otherwise buy products like Tofurky thinking they were getting animal protein.

Alene Anello with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, which is part of the coalition, said there’s no such confusion.

“People are paying extra. They’re going to certain supermarkets, they’re going to areas of the supermarket to get the food that they most want,” she said, adding that the ALDF believes the law is both unnecessary and unconstitutional.

ALCU of Missouri is also part of the coalition who filed the preliminary injunction. Legal Director Tony Rothert said the restrictions violate the First Amendment, calling it “classic censorship.”

Rothert said the state has an obligation to prevent deceptive marketing, but believes that’s not going on with plant-based meat products.

Sales of plant-based meat products rose 20 percent between 2017 and 2018, according to a July Bloomberg report. Anello argued that the law is actually aimed at checking the growing market in meat substitutes.

And there’s a bigger issue on the horizon that this law would affect: lab-grown meat. Companies developing those products say they should be commercially viable within a few years.

Follow Frank on Twitter: @franknewsman.

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Frank Morris has supervised the reporters in KCUR's newsroom since 1999. In addition to his managerial duties, Morris files regularly with National Public Radio. He’s covered everything from tornadoes to tax law for the network, in stories spanning eight states. His work has won dozens of awards, including four national Public Radio News Directors awards (PRNDIs) and several regional Edward R. Murrow awards. In 2012 he was honored to be named "Journalist of the Year" by the Heart of America Press Club.