Alternative Meat Products

Alternative Meat Products and Labeling

Note: The terms for alternative meat products vary greatly; “analog meat,” “imitation meat,” “meat substitutes,” “non-meat,” and the use of brand names for alternative meat products, among others, have been found in use. This article focuses on alternative meat products that are made with non-animal cell tissue. Limited analysis regarding cell-cultured meat products is provided.

Alternative meat products have existed for decades; however, in recent years, some alternative meat product manufacturers have begun incorporating the word “meat” into their product naming and marketing.

Meat labeling is regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and must comply with the regulations of the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), essentially requiring agency approval before being offered for sale. Alternative meat product labeling, however, is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which does not have a counterpart to the FSIS and does not require approval of labels before the product is offered for sale.

Disagreements on Terms, Labeling, and Marketing Impacts

Some commodity and livestock associations believe the term “meat” in an alternative meat product’s name or marketing confuses consumers about what is and is not an animal-based meat product. As such, these associations have pursued legislation at the state level to address their industries’ concerns over labeling and marketing alternative meat products.

Opponents of this type of legislation have stated there are concerns that labeling and marketing restrictions may violate First Amendment rights to free speech. Other concerns include that by creating patchwork laws across the 50 states, it makes it difficult for alternative meat product manufacturers to sell their products. Opponents also contend that consumers are not confused by plant-based products and their labels.
Several states have recently passed legislation to specify how alternative meat products may be labeled and marketed. Included in this article is a list of the legislation by state, the date the legislation was enacted, and a summary of what changes the legislation made to previous law. Information on other related bills introduced during the 2019-2020 biennium is also included.

Kansas Legislation

HB 2437 was introduced during the 2020 Legislative Session by Representative Highland.

The bill would have amended the Kansas Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (Act) to include several new terms, including “meat analog” and “identifiable meat term,” along with adopting the Code of Federal Regulations definitions for “meat,” “meat food product,” “poultry product,” and “poultry food product.” The bill also would have specified what labeling requirements there would be for meat analog products and when such foods would be deemed misbranded under the Act.

The House Committee on Agriculture held a hearing on the bill on January 23, 2020. The Committee passed the bill on February 6, 2020; however, the bill was rereferred back to the House Committee on Appropriations on February 26, 2020. The bill again was rereferred to the House Committee on Agriculture on March 5, 2020. On March 11, 2020, the Committee passed the bill. The bill died on the House Calendar on May 11, 2020.

Enacted Cell-cultured and Alternative Meat Product Labeling Laws (as of 2020)

Alabama2019 AL H 518Enacted 5/29/2020Food products containing cultured animal tissue that is produced from animal cell cultures and not derived directly from an animal may not be labeled as meat or meat food product.
Arkansas2019 AR H 1407Enacted 3/18/2019Truth in labeling of agriculture products that are edible to humans to prevent confusion or misleading of consumers due to false or misleading labeling. Civil penalties.
Colorado2019 CO HR 1005Enacted 4/10/2019House resolution that gives consumers notice of cell-cultured meat products and asks the USDA and FDA to expedite necessary rule-making to require accurate food labeling of cell-cultured food to educate and inform consumers.
Georgia2019 GA S 211Enacted 7/24/2020Unlawful to represent nonanimal products and non-slaughtered animal flesh as meat.
Kentucky2019 KY H 311Enacted 3/21/2019Food is misbranded if it purports to be or is represented as meat or a meat product and it contains any cultured animal tissue produced from in vitro animal cell cultures outside of the organism from which it is derived.
2019 KY HR 105Enacted 2/28/2019House resolution that asks Congress to enact legislation granting USDA jurisdiction over labeling of imitation meat products.
Louisiana2019 LA S 152 Enacted 6/11/2019Creates a truth in labeling of food products act and defines cell cultured food product as any cultured animal tissue produced from in vitro animal cell cultures outside of the organism from which it is derived. The definition of meat specifically excludes cell cultured food product grown in a laboratory from animal cells.

Also prohibits intentional misbranding or misrepresenting of any food product as meat or meat product when it is not derived from a harvested beef, pork, poultry, alligator, farm-raised deer, turtle, domestic rabbit, crawfish, or shrimp carcass. {Note: This also includes representing food as rice when it is not rice.]

Civil penalty of not more than $500 for each violation of this act. Each day of violation is a separate offense.
Missouri2018 MO SB 627 & 925Enacted 6/1/2018Adds misrepresenting a product as meat that is not derived from harvested production livestock or poultry as a misleading or deceptive practice.
Mississippi2019 MS S 2922Enacted 3/12/2019Cultured animal tissue food products shall not be labeled as meat or a meat food product. Cultured animal tissue is animal cells cultured outside of the organism from which it is derived.

Plant based or insect based food product shall not be labeled as meat or meat food product.
Montana2019 MT H 327Enacted 4/18/2019Cell-cultured edible product is the concept of meat, including but not limited to muscle cells, fat cells, connective tissue, blood, and other components produced via cell culture, rather than from a whole slaughtered animal. Cell-cultured edible products derived from meat muscle cells, fat cells, connective tissue, blood or other meat components must contain labeling indicating it is derived from those cells, tissue,s, blood, or components.

Cell-cultured edible products do not fall within the definition of hamburger or ground beef or meat.

Cell-cultured edible product is misbranded when it is labeled as meat but does not meet the definition of meat.
North Dakota2019 ND H 1400Enacted 3/12/2019The definition of meat is the edible flesh of an animal born and harvested for the purpose of human consumption. Meat food product is a product usable as human food which contains nay part of a carcass from an animal born and harvested for the purpose of human consumption.

Misrepresentation of cell cultured protein as meat food product is prohibited. A person may not advertise, offer for sale, sell, or misrepresent cell cultured protein as a meat food product.

A cell cultured food product may not be packaged in the same or deceptively similar packaging as a meat food product and must be labeled as a cell cultured food product.

Deceptively similar means packaging that could mislead the reasonable person to believe the product is a meat food product.
2019 ND HCR 3024Enacted 3/4/2019Congressional resolution to USDA to amend the federal law, policies, and regulations relating to food safety and labeling of cell cultured meat products.
NebraskaNE LR 13Enacted 5/30/2019Legislative resolution that encourages the FDA to standardize the labeling and definitions of milk and other dairy products that are derived from non-dairy sources.
South Carolina2019 SC H 4245Enacted 5/16/2019Unlawful to advertise, sell, label, or misrepresent as “meat” or “clean meat” all or part of a carcass that is cell cultured meat or protein, or is not derived from harvested production livestock, poultry, fish, or crustaceans.

This does not apply to plant-based meat substitutes.

Provides for a misdemeanor charge for a guilty conviction for violating the article with not more than a year of imprisonment or fined not more than $1000, or both.
South Dakota2019 SD S 68Enacted 3/18/2019Defines misbranding of a food product if the product is labeled or branded in a false, deceptive, or misleading manner that intentionally misrepresents the product as a meat food product as defined in Section 39-5-6, a meat by-product as defined in Section 39-5-6, or as poultry.
Wyoming2019 WY S 68Enacted 2/26/2019Prohibits misrepresenting a product as meat that is not derived from harvested production of livestock or poultry.

Introduced Cell-cultured and Alternative Meat Product Labeling Bills (2019-2020)

United States Senate2019 US S 1056Introduced 4/4/2019Clarifies oversight and jurisdiction over the regulation, inspection, and labeling of cell-cultured meat and poultry.
Illinois2019 and 2020 IL H 2556Introduced 2/13/2019Amends the Meat and Poultry Inspection Act to provide that a carcass, meat or meat food product, or poultry is misbranded if it purports or is represented as meat or meat food product or poultry or poultry product but is a cell cultured food product.

Cell-cultured food product means food products derived from the cells of animals or poultry, grown in laboratories from cell cultures.
Kansas2020 KS HB 2437Introduced 1/13/2020Prohibits the use of meat terms on labels or in advertisements of meat analogs without a disclaimer that the products don’t contain meat or the inclusion of the word “imitation” before the meat being imitated.
Vermont2019 VT H 233Introduced 2/13/2019Clarifies that meat is not cell-cultured meat. Cell-culture meat is a food product derived from controlled growth of animal cells from livestock, poultry, fish, and other animals, the subsequent differentiation into various cell types, and the collection and processing into the food product grown in a cell culture instead of from an animal.

Misbranding if cell cultured meat is represented as meat or a meat byproduct.
Washington2019 WA H 1519Introduced 1/23/2019Restriction on cell cultured meat.
Source: National Conference of State Legislatures

Heather O’Hara, Principal Research Analyst

Meredith Fry, Research Analyst