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Ranchers, farmers and industry groups are trying to slowing the momentum of popular products like the Impossible Burger, according to The New York Times — by defending the definition of the word "meat."
According to the report, the animal products lobby is moving to convince state lawmakers to implement legislation that makes clear that only food derived from animal products can use the "meat" label.
It remains to be seen whether the efforts to define meat on the state level, or to restrict the sale of plant-based alternatives, will succeed. One of the more extreme proposals, which has not yet come up for a vote, "would make it a crime to sell lab-grown meat and would bar state funds from being used for research" altogether in Washington State, the Times reported.
The lab-grown and plant-based meat substitutes produced by Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat and other start-ups have gone mainstream. Now that they can more or less pass for the real thing and are available at your local supermarket or fast-food joint, the value of the surging meat substitute market is set to reach $7.5 billion, worldwide, by 2025.
Yet cattle ranchers and their allies are struggling to protect their territory before it's too late.
In the past few weeks alone, lawmakers in nearly 15 states have introduced legislation to keep these start-ups from being able to call their products "meat," the Times reports. According to the report, meat producers are fearful of falling prey to the dynamic that befell the dairy industry — which tried and failed to keep almond and soy beverages from co opting the use of the word "milk."
A year ago, in a similar move, the U.S. Cattlemen's Association filed a 15-page petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture asking for official definitions of the words "beef" and "meat."
For their part, elements of the non-meat burger movement aren't concerned. Recently, Beyond Meat founder and CEO Ethan Brown said: "I think it actually could help us more than it could hurt us because it starts the national dialogue around what really is meat, and if the origin of meat really matters to the consumer."
American Meat Institute. But the lab-grown meat industry has plenty of powerful friends: Bill Gates, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack & Suzy Welch, Kleiner Perkins and Tyson Foods are all investors in Beyond Meat.