U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, introduced the Real MEAT Act, which aims to clarify the definition of beef and plant-based meat alternatives on product labels. Fischer’s proposed legislation is a companion bill to bipartisan legislation recently introduced in the U.S. House called The Real MEAT (Marketing Edible Artificials Truthfully) Act, sponsored by U.S. Reps. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., and Anthony Brindisi, D-N.Y.
Fischer, who ranches near Valentine with her husband, said, “Beef is derived from cattle—period. Under USDA, beef undergoes a rigorous inspection and labeling process, but plant-based protein products that mimic beef and are sometimes labeled as beef are overseen by the FDA instead. These products are not held to the same food safety and labeling standards as beef. Americans deserve to know what’s on their dinner plate. The Real MEAT Act will protect consumers from deceptive marketing practices and bring transparency to the grocery store.”
Fischer's views about fake meat are posted on her website.
In a study conducted by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, 55% of consumers said they did not understand that “plant-based beef” wasn’t beef at all, but instead an entirely vegan or vegetarian product. Supporters of the bill say it would help clear the confusion by codifying a definition of beef for labeling and allowing USDA to take action against misbranded products.
NCBA applauded Fischer’s action on fake meat, and in a statement, NCBA president Jennifer Houston said, “It’s clear that fake-meat companies are continuing to mislead consumers about the nutritional merits and actual ingredient composition of their products. We commend the efforts of Senator Fischer on introducing this legislation, which would end deceptive labeling of fake meat products and allow cattle producers to compete on a level playing field.”
Nebraska Cattlemen president Ken Herz said, “Real beef, raised by actual farmers and ranchers in the state of Nebraska creates $13.8 billion total economic impact to our state. Protecting the legacy of these farmers and ranchers by ensuring imitation proteins do not capitalize on beef’s good name and reputation is, and will continue to be, a priority for the Nebraska Cattlemen.”
Specifically, The Real Meat Act will:
1. Codify the Definition of Beef for Labeling Purposes
- Establish a federal definition of beef that applies to food labels;
- Preserve the Congressional Intent of the Beef Promotion and Research Act;
2. Reinforce Existing Misbranding Provisions to Eliminate Consumer Confusion
- FDA has misbranding provisions for false or misleading labels;
- Prevent further consumer confusion with alternative protein products;
- Clarify the imitation nature of these alternative protein products;
3. Enhance the Federal Government’s Ability to Enforce the Law
- FDA will have to notify USDA if an imitation meat product is determined to be misbranded;
- If FDA fails to undertake enforcement within 30 days of notifying USDA, the Secretary of Agriculture is granted authority to seek enforcement action.