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Farm groups back bill advocating clear labels for ‘imitation meat’
 
By Doug Schmitz
Iowa Correspondent

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Bipartisan lawmakers and national farm groups are backing a proposed bill advocating for clear labels on alternative meat and poultry products that are deemed “imitation meat.”
Sponsored by Rep. Mark Alford (R-Mo.) and Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), and backed by the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and other livestock and poultry organizations, the Fair and Accurate Ingredient Representation on Labels Act of 2024 (or FAIR Labels Act) would define “imitation” and “cell-cultured” meat, and poultry.
The bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Don Davis (D-N.C.), Roger Williams (R-Texas), and Jonathan Jackson (D-Ill.)
“This is an issue I heard from my constituents on,” Alford, who led the introduction of the act, told Farm World in a Feb. 8 statement. “Farmers and ranchers across the country work hard day in and day out to produce a healthy and nutritious product. It is only fair that all products, whether real meat, plant-based or lab-grown, are labeled fairly.”
The act defines “imitation meat” and “imitation poultry” to help consumers easily identify plant-based protein products that visually resemble, or are represented as meat or poultry, but are derived from plant sources.
Under the act, product labels would be required to use terms like “imitation” or similar descriptions, along with a clear disclaimer if the product does not contain meat or poultry.
According to Alford and Marshall, the USDA would oversee the labeling of such products, and work with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to maintain inspection standards.
“Transparent and appropriate labeling laws are essential to ensuring consumers can make the best decisions for them and their families,” Alford said. “Since Missouri was the first state to pass marketing with integrity legislation, I found it fitting that I introduced similar efforts on the federal level. Sen. Marshall has been active on this topic before, and was a great fit to lead this legislation alongside me.”
Marshall said, “Consumers deserve to be able to easily understand what products they are putting in their grocery cart.
“It’s pretty simple: if food is represented as meat or poultry, but is either lab-grown or made from a plant protein, it should be prominently displayed on the label,” he said. “Distinguishing between a ‘black bean burger’ and an actual beef burger shouldn’t be hard.
“But, as other meat alternatives with misleading names continue to appear on shelves, we need to do more to ensure the transparency of imitation meats versus the real farm-raised meats,” he added.
Scott Hays, NPPC president and a Monroe City, Mo., pork producer, said, “Accurate meat labeling at the grocery store benefits all consumers, regardless of dietary preferences. Labeling an imitation product as pork undermines the hard work that pork producers, like me, put in every day to deliver a reliable and affordable protein source.”
Todd Wilkinson, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association president and a De Smet, S.D., cattle producer, said, “We’re not afraid of a little competition, but it is unfair for lab grown or plant-based fake meat products to trade on beef’s good name. This bill is especially important for ensuring that consumers recognize lab grown products that may be coming to market in the future.”
Mike Brown, National Chicken Council president, said, according to consumer research, one in five Americans has reported accidentally purchasing a plant-based product, believing it to be real chicken.
“As such, we’re pleased to support legislation like the FAIR Labels Act that would clarify labeling requirements for these imitation products,” he said.
Ted McKinney, CEO of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, said, “Disclosing science-based and accurate information on food labels and consistent regulatory enforcement by federal agencies is critical to maintaining the integrity of all agricultural products in the marketplace.”
Alford told Farm World he hopes to see this legislation move through the U.S. House and Senate Agriculture Committees, and then to pass the floor in both chambers.
“Our first step is building support and co-sponsorship among other members of Congress who care about this issue,” he said. “At the end of the day, this is about consumer transparency. We want to make sure that the American consumer knows what they are eating and feeding their families.
“Our nation’s farmers and ranchers work endlessly to produce meat held to rigorous standards,” he added. “It’s only fair that all protein products are held to the same standard.”
2/13/2024