As Plant-Based Meat and Dairy Picks Up Speed, a Labeling Fight Heads to Court

Over the past few years, the grocery store refrigerated aisle has undergone something of a revolution. Yogurt, once categorized as either Greek or not Greek, is now made from coconuts, cashews, pili nuts, and almonds. Oat milk has claimed squatters rights at our favorite coffee shops. And at summer cookouts and drive-through windows, burgers are sharing grill space with patties of a decidedly different biological makeup.

Plant-based food companies like Just, Impossible Foods, and Beyond Meat have collectively racked up over $1 billion in funding, according to TechCrunch. But now lawmakers, backed by influential meat and dairy industries, are pushing back on the burgeoning industry by controlling the packaging language they’re allowed to use.

In March, Wisconsin senator Tammy Baldwin reintroduced the Dairy Pride Act “defending against imitations and replacements of yogurt, milk, and cheese to promote regular intake of dairy” after a failed attempt in 2017. And in July, Arkansas’s “Truth in Labeling” law went into effect, imposing fines on companies who use words like “burger” and “bacon” to describe non-meat products. The same goes for dairy: No more “nut cheese”, no more “oat milk.” The Arkansas Bureau of Standards has not yet begun enforcement of the law, which will require plant-based products to changing their packaging accordingly or pull product from the state to avoid the fine.

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