Nebraska’s Fischer reintroduces Real MEAT Act
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, recently reintroduced the Real Marketing Edible Artificials Truthfully or MEAT Act to end deceptive labeling practices for alternative protein products. The Real MEAT Act would clarify the definition of beef and pork for labeling purposes by requiring alternative proteins to clearly display the word “imitation” on their packaging. The legislation would eliminate the consumer confusion that results from misbranding and ensure that the federal government is able to enforce labeling standards.
Sen. Fischer told The Fence Post magazine, the time is now to clarify labeling to reduce consumer confusion and to be prepared as new products come into the marketplace as protein alternatives.
“When it comes to meat, it needs to be real meat,” she said. “It needs to be real beef, it needs to be real pork. I think it’s important and I think consumers would be demanding that.”
She said it appears the growth anticipated by alternative protein companies hasn’t panned out due to taste and the fact that the products are not a healthy alternative to real protein products.
“People still want to know where their food is coming from,” she said. “They want to know what’s in their food, and they want to make sure it’s real and that’s what we’re trying to promote.”
As lab-based meat products enter the marketplace, she said this bill paves the way for labeling of those products to provide the greatest amount of clarity and consumer confidence in the real proteins consumers expect from cattle and hog producers. The act, she said, requires the size of the print declaring the product as imitation must be prominent so it is easily differentiated by consumers.
“It’s time to end the deceptive propaganda of plant-based protein products that deliberately confuse consumers by mimicking beef and pork. My Real MEAT Act will clarify that these imitation products aren’t held to the same food safety and labeling standards as real, nutritious beef and pork. Americans deserve to know what’s on their dinner plate, and my bill will bring certainty to the supermarket and end the smear campaign against real meats,” said Sen. Fischer.
HELPING CONSUMERS CHOOSE
According to a release from Fischer’s office, the Real MEAT Act would clarify the definition of beef and pork for labeling purposes, reinforce existing misbranding provisions to eliminate consumer confusion, and enhance the federal government’s ability to enforce labeling standards. The term “beef” is defined as the flesh of cattle and “beef product” as edible products produced in whole or in part from beef, exclusive of milk and milk products. The term “pork” is defined as the flesh of pigs and “pork product” as any food produced or processed in whole or in part from pork. The legislation defines the terms “meat,” “meat food product,” “meat byproducts,” and “meat broker” based on the definitions established in the code of federal regulations.
The bill would reinforce the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act’s misbranding provisions, stating that any imitation meat food product, beef or beef product, or pork or pork product is misbranded unless its label has the word “imitation” in the same size and prominence immediately before or after the name of the food. The imitation product must also include a statement clearly indicating that it is not derived from and does not contain meat.
Finally, the bill would require the Secretary of U.S. Health and Human Services to submit a notice within 60 days to the secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture if a product is misbranded. If the HHS secretary failed to initiate an enforcement mechanism within 30 days of sending the notice, the USDA secretary would be able to treat the product as being misbranded.
Fischer said the act is also rooted in stopping future threats to the protein industry.
“If we don’t stop this now or try to get some control over the labeling, it’ll be much harder in the future,” she said. “If we don’t explain this to the shopper in the grocery store now, on a comparison on the labels and what great tasting beef contains and the nutritional value that is side by side, it will be harder.”
The bill is supported by the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Nebraska Cattlemen, Nebraska Pork Producers Association and Nebraska Farm Bureau.
Fischer, who is an agriculture producer herself with a family-run cow calf operation, said it remains important that those in agriculture promote the message of the good things ranchers and farmers do.
“I tell every ag group I visit with, whether they’re Nebraskans or, like yesterday, I visited with a group of young Farm Bureau members from Mississippi, I always tell them their assignment and mission is to put their narrative out there,” she said. “You need to talk about how you care for the land, how you are a good steward of the land, how you care for your water resources, how your young family is living on the land, drinking the water, taking care of the livestock. That’s what has to happen for people to see us for who we are: hard working, we care for our families, we care for the land, we volunteer in our communities. That’s the story that has to be out there.”