Interpretive Summary: Texas Governor signs meat labelling law
By: Sydney Sheffield
Texas Governor Greg Abbott recently signed a bill into law that will require labels for meat alternatives and lab-grown meat sold in the state. The law directs plant-based and other alternative products to have clarifying verbiage appear next to the label with similar size text as the product being sold. The law will go into effect on September 1, 2023. Similar laws have passed in other states, but have been met with litigation, said to censor free commercial speech.
“Recent technological advancements have given the ability for companies to create food products from non-traditional sources that mimic traditional sources of protein, are created using alternative ingredients and methods of production,” said Senator Charles Perry in an analysis of the bill. “Oftentimes these alternative protein sources are created using analogue or cell-cultured food products and are then marketed with labels such as "Beef," "Chicken," "Egg," and more when they do not contain beef, chicken, or egg. The increase in variety at the food counter can be a positive for consumers, but it is important for the consumer to understand the nature of the products they are purchasing to feed themselves and their families.”
The law requires “analogue products,” which are food products made from processed plant products, insects, or fungus with food additives to mimic meat, poultry, or egg products, to have clear labels. The bill would require those products to be labeled with one of the following: “analogue; meatless; plant-based; made from plants, or a similar qualifying term.” The law also clearly defines meat as “any edible portion of a livestock carcass that does not contain lab-grown, cell-cultured, insect or plant-based food products.” Livestock is limited to cattle, sheep, swine, goats, and poultry.
According to the Texas Farm Bureau, a supporter of the bill, one out of every five Texans is deceived by misleading meat substitute food product packaging, according to a statewide survey. State Representative Brad Buckley, who introduced the bill to the House, said “When I talk to folks from across the spectrum, those who live a vegan lifestyle or vegetarian, they are as in favor of this bill as folks like me who are hardcore carnivores. They want to know what they’re purchasing because their lifestyle dictates knowing the food that’s in front of them. This bill does that. This doesn’t pick winners and losers. This bill just promotes accurate and truthful labeling, and then the consumer can make their own decision of what they want to purchase.”
Some on the other side do not feel the same about the bill. Drake Jamali, a legislative specialist at the nonprofit Good Food Institute said, “Simply put, Texas consumers are not confused about the foods they purchase, and this law will do nothing to protect consumers. Instead, this legislation could restrict consumer choice by stifling innovation, the free market, and freedom of speech.”
The Good Food Institute has sued several states to prohibit laws similar to this one, citing censorship of free commercial speech. While no lawsuit has been filed, the Good Food Institute said they, along with other industry players, will continue to examine the law’s legality.
Read the new law here.