Livestock farmers fight back over claims plant-based rivals want to destroy industry

By John Breslin | Apr 19, 2019

JEFFERSON CITY – Missouri farmers are fighting back against what they claim are attacks by the growing industry producing plant-substitutes for traditional meat.

The Missouri Farm Bureau claims the long-term aim of the now more than $3 billion plant and stem cell-based industry is to wipe out traditional livestock production.

In recent years, the state has found itself at the center of the increasing national debate over the issue, including with the passing of a law last year that attempted to block plant-based producers from marketing their products as meat. That law faced a legal challenge.

More recently, Burger King is piloting the introduction of the plant-based Impossible Burger in St. Louis, with a planned roll out to its 7,200 outlets nationwide, if successful. The Impossible Burger is regarded at being at the cutting edge of plant-based products as it most closely resembles in taste and texture a traditional burger.

Missouri Farm Bureau Director of Public Affairs and Advocacy Eric Bohl   Missouri Farm Bureau

Eric Bohl, director of public affairs and advocacy with the Missouri Farm Bureau, claims the aim of the new players are to slowly destroy traditional agriculture, which he noted has been "around since the dawn of civilization."

"We do not think it is right for any one sector to be making money denigrating another," Bohl told the St. Louis Record, adding that many of the members of his organization are involved in organic farming and that the goal is to take care of the animals and the environment.

On the pilot program by Burger King metro area, Bohl noted the price of an Impossible Whopper is a $1 more than a regular sandwich.

While Bohl said he has nothing against innovation, including work to develop products via labs, products that do not come directly from livestock should not be sold as "meat."

Missouri passed a law last year barring companies from labeling their products as meat if they do not come from two or four-legged animals. This was challenged in the courts by the Good Food Institute, Animal Legal Defense Fund, American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri and the plant-based brand Tofurky.

The plaintiffs claimed that the law would criminalize companies and individuals for exercising their constitutional rights.

A tentative agreement was reported in February, but appears that the terms of the settlement have not been finalized.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture subsequently issued a statement that its officials would not exercise its powers under the act that allows it to refer matters to the attorney and local prosecutors. This does not stop prosecutors from taking a case.

Attorney Mark Arnold, of Husch Blackwell in St. Louis, who specializes in agri-business, wrote in a post for legal site, JD Supra, that "Under these circumstances, the case is an obvious candidate for a settlement in which the court enters an injunction incorporating the Department’s statement and enjoining any enforcement effort if the producer plainly discloses the origin of the product."

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