At summer barbecues, you might have to now ask for a veggie cake instead of a burger.

July 09, 2019

In turns out, at least in Mississippi, what gives a burger or hot dog its name happens to be the meat. With the rise of plant-based products for those who are limiting meat intake or are vegan or vegetarian, there are several faux-meat burgers and hot dogs on the market so that meatless eaters can still dig into their favorite summer barbecue foods.

Related: Top Vegetarian Protein Sources

Sadly though, Mississippi isn't too keen on letting herbivores join in on the grilling fun, and they just banned plant-based meat providers from labeling meatless products "veggie burger" or "vegan hot dog" in grocery stores across the state. And the penalty? Potential jail time.

"This bill will protect our cattle farmers from having to compete with products not harvested from an animal," said Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation president Mike McCormick back in January when the bill passed in the House. Supporters claim the law helps limit confusion for shoppers searching for plant-based faux "meat products" and so it's important to only use these two terms for slaughtered animals.

Here's the truth: it's not really that confusing and people have survived the grocery store aisles thus far. It seems to be an attempt from meat providers to put the pressure on plant-based options and alternatives, which are booming and not dying down anytime soon.

"The plant-based meat alternative category is on fire right now, with consumers demanding healthier and more sustainable options," said Michele Simon, the executive director of the Plant-Based Foods Association, in a statement. "This law, along with similar laws in several other states, is the meat lobby's response."

Meat-alternative providers are fighting back and in a lawsuit, which they filed on July 2, they claim that the "vegan," label itself already clears up any potential for misleading customers.

"There is no evidence that consumers are confused by plant-based bacon or veggie burger labels, and federal laws are already in place that prohibits consumer deception," said Jessica Almy, director of policy at the Good Food Institute, which provides greater access to plant-based foods. "This law is a tremendous overstep of state powers."

And it's Not the First Time

Missouri attempted to pass a law to fend off the rising plant-based market and other states have followed suit similary. Sales in plant-based alternatives grew last year and are continuing to rise as people are considering climate change and other health benefits associated with smaller meat intake.

In California, courts said that a claim that "soy milk" and "almond milk" are confusing to consumers looking for milk but who can't have dairy was nonsensical. (TBH, we have to agree) "The crux of the claims is that a reasonable consumer might confuse plant-based beverages such as soy milk or almond milk for dairy milk, because of the use of the word "milk," the US District Court for the Northern District of California said, who dismissed the case. "The claim stretches the bounds of credulity. Under Plaintiffs' logic, a reasonable consumer might also believe that veggie bacon contains pork, that flourless chocolate cake contains flour, or that e-books are made out of paper."

Related: Best Non-Dairy Milks

The Takeaway

Consumer's don't seem confused. "Just because a burger isn't made from beef doesn't mean that it's not a patty of some sort on a bun," adds Ginger Hultin, MS, RD."With all the evidence that plant-based foods including beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and soy foods are healthful and reduce incidence of chronic disease, from a public health perspective, it makes sense to promote these products. As a dietitian, I often suggest using these plant-based burgers as they are great alternatives to meat for those who want to try them."

There's not reason to get rid of terms like, "sausage," "burger," or "hot dog," if it's simply a meat alternative. We'll be following to see how the lawsuit pans out and in the meantime, enjoying our veggie burgers.

Read more:

The Health Benefits of Eating a Plant-Based Diet and How to Get Started

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