The Fake Meat Conundrum & the Real MEAT Act

Fake Meat Article Cover Photo

Written by Jay Bodner, Executive Vice President, MSGA 

Consumers today are faced with ever increasing choices when it comes to putting dinner on the table. In addition to the popular animal proteins, such as beef, there are a growing number of alternative proteins becoming available. Whether we call it fake meat, plant based or the ever evolving “cultured meat,” we know these products and trends will continue to become readily accessible. So, what are we going to do about it? 

The Montana Stockgrowers Association is engaging on this issue with the goal of: 

  • Ensuring there is proper marketing and regulation of fake meat products. 
  • Promoting the countless positive aspects of the beef and ranching industries. 

To start with, MSGA was a strong supporter of HB 327, by Representative Alan Redfield, during the 2019 Legislature. This act clarified labeling requirements for meat, provided a definition of “cell-cultured edible product,” and clarified the definition of “hamburger” and “ground beef.” This was an important first step in making sure consumers have a clear idea of their protein purchases. 

Secondly, research shows that when consumers choose meat alternatives, they do so because of what they perceive as health, safety, or environmental reasons. We in the ranching industry know ranching is not a threat to the environment, but it is up to us to make sure consumers know we are the real stewards of these lands. 

On October 28, 2019, the Real MEAT (Marketing Edible Artificials Truthfully) Act of 2019 was introduced by U.S. Reps. Roger Marshall (R – 1st Dist., Kansas) and Anthony Brindisi (D – 22nd Dist., N.Y.) 

Specifically, the Real MEAT Act will: 

1. Codify the Definition of Beef for Labeling Purposes 

  • Establish a federal definition of beef that applies to food labels; 
  • Preserve the Congressional Intent of the Beef Promotion and Research Act; 

2. Reinforce Existing Misbranding Provisions to Eliminate Consumer Confusion 

  • FDA has misbranding provisions for false or misleading labels; 
  • Prevent further consumer confusion with alternative protein products; 
  • Clarify the imitation nature of these alternative protein products; 

3. Enhance the Federal Government’s Ability to Enforce the Law

  • FDA will have to notify USDA if an imitation meat product is determined to be misbranded; 
  • If FDA fails to undertake enforcement within 30 days of notifying USDA, the Secretary of Agriculture is granted authority to seek enforcement action. 

MSGA recognizes the importance of this “fake meat” issue and we will be working on your behalf to show the benefits our industry has on consumer’s diets and our environment. Moving forward, we want to make sure fake meat – both current plant-based products and potential lab-produced products in the future – is properly marketed and regulated.