Kansas Thinks You May Be Accidentally Buying Vegetarian “Meat”, So It Passed a Law | KCUR 89.3


The power of Kansas’ beef industry means grocers in the state won’t buy anything called sausages or hamburgers unless they’re made from animal parts.

Governor Laura Kelly recently signed a bill requiring meat substitutes to be sold with labeling that clearly states they come from plants, not livestock.

This is part of a nationwide effort by the meat industry to avoid competition from a product line that is reducing its market share. The Kansas Livestock Association pushed for the law for yearsarguing that this will avoid consumer confusion.

“It became pretty clear that they were using misleading labels to market their products,” KLA lobbyist Aaron Popekla said of the meat alternatives producers.

The law enjoyed bipartisan support, receiving a unanimous vote in the Kansas House and Senate.

As in other states, Kansas law now prohibits substitute products from using terms associated with animal meat, unless they also provide a “it’s not meat”, such as “meatless”, “vegan” or “plant-based”.

Plant-based meat products continue to grow in popularity. Recent retail data shows that sales of plant-based foods that mimic animal products have increased 54%, to a total of $7.4 billion, over the past three years , according to the Good Food Institute.

Many meat alternatives sold in Kansas already used disclaimer language on packaging, including major brands in the meat alternatives market – Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat.

In fact, Mission Impossible Foods is one of the reasons the KLA pursued the legislation. Popelka pointed to Impossible Foods CEO Patrick Brown, who said in 2020 that the company wanted to replace all meat products of animal origin by 2035, according to CNBC.

Popelka said he thought that meant the fake meat products were marketed to meat eaters, not vegans and vegetarians.

“(We) are just making sure that when consumers go to the grocery store, they know exactly what they’re buying,” Popelka said.

The Kansas Chamber of Commerce opposed the bill to place restrictions on companies selling fake meat products, including requiring companies to create Kansas-specific labels.

Dylan Lysen reports on politics for the Kansas News Service. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanLysen or email him at dlysen(at)kcur(dot)org.

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration between KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW, and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health, and how they relate to public policy.

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