A new Missouri law prohibits food companies from marketing meat-alternative products as meat. This law applies to all meat substitutes such as soy based or plant based meat. Senate bill numbers 627 and 925 specifically states, “Misrepresenting the cut, grade, brand or trade name, or weight or measure of any product, or misrepresenting a product as meat that is not derived from harvested production livestock or poultry” CNN reports that this move was made in response to concerns that meat-free products are misrepresented as meat products, which is in violation of the FDA’s prohibition of misrepresentation of food products. The decision in Missouri has garnered a large amount of backlash among organizations that feel this move works in the benefit of meat producers and against the free speech of meat alternative.
For those of us who are not well versed in the meat alternative market, these products often appeal to vegetarians or people who maintain meat free diets as part of dietary or religious restrictions. According to Mother Nature Network, the market for alternative meat products has increased over recent years as the health and wellness market has expanded. This market has also gained traction as concerns for the environment and animal/livestock welfare have grown. In fact, in 2012, it was an industry producing a whopping $553 million in sales.
How is fake meat created? Some products are just simple alternatives with masked flavoring. Things like beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and grains can be used to develop meat free protein sources. However, many of these alternative products start with plant based proteins that are manufactured to produce textures that are comparable to actual meat. Changing the molecular structure is a very scientific process that requires hear, acids, or other solvents. If you are hungry for a hamburger, soy beans aren’t just going to fulfill the craving. As such, the goal is to make the substitution as close to the real thing as possible. Over the years the taste, texture, and quality of alternative meat products has improved. So much so, that it can even be difficult to determine the difference between the plant based product and the real thing.However, it is important to know that these sources (although they may taste, smell, or act like their counterparts) are often incomplete proteins that do not contain all of the essential amino acids that your body needs. Typically true meat counterparts are complete proteins and alternative meats are unable to meet this quality. The only alternatives that are complete proteins are soy, quinoa and hemp (Independent).
The current moves made by the Missouri government and associated organizations (both those for and against) may change our consumption and understanding of the meat and meat alternative products available on the market. If this discussion gains national traction, it could lead to changes in our diet and perception of alternative diets. On top of this is the emerging lab produced meat scene that is continuing to grow here and overseas. Lab grown meat contains the same cells, taste, and structure as actual meat products but is is not actually produced by animals. If this type of alternative meat becomes available to the general public, how will it fit into this law? We might soon find out, as some people anticipate that meat produced by this alternative might be available by the end of 2018 (CNN!