Years ago, when veggie burgers were sad little afterthoughts to just a smattering of menus, cattle ranchers didn’t much care what you called a “burger” or a “sausage.” It was a time of peace between the plant-eaters and the meat farmers, but as veggie burgers become more delicious and thus more powerful, that time of peace has come to an end.
According to The Washington Post, in 2019 “nearly 30" states have bills in the works aimed at prohibiting the use of words like “meat, burger, sausage, jerky or hot dog” for any product that did not come from an animal carcass raised and slaughtered in the “traditional way.” And penalties for ignoring the word ordinances are steep. In Missouri, for example, one might face a thousand dollar fine along with a year in jail for leading one to believe they were eating an animal when in fact they were eating a vegetable.
The cattle ranchers backing this legislation claim they must fight for the male carnivore attempting to raise his boy-children on an exclusively animal protein diet because, aside from his own ability to read, this consumer is currently offered very little protection from what ranchers claim are sodium-rich, processed vegetables posing as sodium-rich, processed meat:
“Beyond Meat Beefy Crumbles has a picture of a cow on the front and says ‘plant-based’ in very small lettering at the bottom,” said Mike Deering, a cattle rancher and the executive vice president of the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association. “I’m a dad and I’m going through the grocery store before one of my boys has a meltdown, and [if] I pick up that package that says beef with a picture of a cow on it, I’m going to buy it.”
Yet the pro-plant corporations will not sit idle while their right to naming autonomy over wheat gluten and tofu molded into the shape of a ham roast falls under siege. In July, Tofurky teamed up with the ACLU, among other groups, to file a lawsuit against new labeling laws in Arkansas both in the name of free speech and in the name of not having to pay for a new logo and packaging designs. Meanwhile, major meat processors like Tyson and Smithfield that also have a stake in the growing meatless alternative market are staying neutral.
But soon it will be impossible to remain neutral in the meat wars, and we will all be forced into battle, either on the side of frozen vegetable patties produced by giant corporations like Kraft-Heinz or frozen meat patties produced by giant corporations like Kraft-Heinz.