Missouri Passes Law Calling BS on Plant-Based "Meat"

I try to be a live and let live kind of guy. I'm not one to cling blindly to tradition or let long-held practices dictate my beliefs about what others do. In fact, the best way to get me to hate a practice is to tell me "we've always done it this way."

I didn't get upset when the Associated Press said we could start sentences with "hopefully" a few years ago, even though that drove some language purists crazy. I didn't care when they started using instant replay review in Major League Baseball. And if they want to change the Indianapolis 500 to the Indianapolis 550, I'm not going to lose my mind.

But there are plenty of people who don't just stand on tradition, they've got both feet firmly planted on his back. I think these people are usually old-fashioned, myopic, and inflexible, and I try not to associate with them.

Unless we're talking about food. Then we're fellow warriors in the fight for truth and justice.

For example, I hate all seed-based "milk." Not to drink, because chocolate almond "milk" is pretty good. But I can't call it "milk" without using snarky air quotes and rolling my eyes.

Instead, I'll call it almond juice, almond squeezings, or almond slurry. That's because it's made by soaking almond chunks in water, pureeing them, and then squeezing out all the liquid.

Now, before the healthier-than-thou crowd gets all up in my face, or the ice-cream-makes-me-fart people say I'm being lactophobic, let me say that I'm not opposed to the existence of almond juice.

If you don't like milk, or can't have it, that's totally fine. Remember, I'm a live and let live guy. You do you, and take care of yourself.

But I can't abide calling it "milk." It's not milk, and using that word insults the honor and sacrifice of the cows and goats that create milk for human consumption. Mammals make milk, plants make, well, something else.

Missouri gets it though. They understand what it means to be a food purist. They just became the first state to enact a law that prevents food companies from calling things "meat" if they're not made from animal flesh.

According to a story in the Springfield (Missouri) News Leader, the new law makes it illegal to "(misrepresent) a product as meat that is not derived from harvested production livestock or poultry."

The Missouri Cattlemen's Association helped to pass the law, saying consumers were confused by claims that "plant-based meats" were the equivalent of meat.

But Tofurky, the company that makes tofu-based turkey — or as I like to call it, futurkey — said they've never had any complaints about people confusing their product with real meat. Which is not surprising because I don't think anyone would ever confuse tofurky with real anything.

So the company filed an injunction against the law, saying it's a violation of their First Amendment rights, and said the word "meat" can also mean the edible part of fruits and nuts.

That's a stretch though. Referring to the meat of a walnut or a pumpkin is more of a metaphorical usage — a meat-aphor, if you will — and not one to be taken literally.

It's this literal usage of "meat" that we should concern ourselves with. It has traditionally referred to animal flesh, and it's only in the last several decades that people have begun trying to trick people — I mean, equate it with — that stuff made from soybeans or mushrooms or chopped nuts all mushed together.

The law was originally intended to only refer to lab-grown meat, also called "clean meat," which are just meat cells that are induced to grow and reproduce. However, the plant-based "meat" producers were concerned that they were going to be harmed by the law, and so they picketed in front of the Missouri State House, waving signs and placards until they grew tired and listless and had to lay down.

Okay, that part's not true, so I don't need a bunch of vegetarians writing to me about how they have plenty of energy and blah blah healthy stuff blah. This is a humor column and I exaggerate things for humorous effect. Besides, a lack of iron causes humor deficiencies, so just chill out.

Ernest Baskin, assistant professor of food marketing at St. Joseph's University, told the Springfield News Leader that people use the word "meat" as a shortcut to understand how they should eat this #FakeFood.

He said. "Putting those options together in front of consumers gives them the thought that 'Hey, maybe these two are similar..'"

Except they're not similar. Just because you press minced black beans into a patty and fry it like a hamburger doesn't make it a hamburger. You can call it a black bean patty, but when you call it a hamburger, it's a lie.

It's a lie when you say Tofurky is "like turkey." The only thing like turkey is another turkey. Or chicken.

If you want to call it Thanksgiving Lies For People Who Hate Tradition, I'm fine with that. That's truth in advertising, which is what the Missouri law is all about. Not to trick those of us who just want to eat a damn cheeseburger. Call real meat "meat" and tell the truth about plant-based "meat." Let it stand on its own two to-feet and be judged on its own merits.

Because we're going to fight about turkey "bacon" next.

Photo credit: Aine (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)

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