Kansas Thinks Maybe You're Accidentally Buying Vegetarian 'Meat,' So It Passed a Law
The power of the Kansas cattle industry means grocery shoppers in the state won't be buying anything called sausage or burger unless it's made of animal parts.
Governor Laura Kelly recently signed a bill into law requiring meat substitutes to be sold with labeling that makes clear they come from plants, not livestock.
It's part of a national effort from the meat industry to stave off competition from a range of products cutting into its market share. The Kansas Livestock Association pushed for the law for years, arguing it will spare consumers from confusion.
“It became pretty clear they were using deceptive labels to market their products,” KLA lobbyist Aaron Popekla said of meat alternative producers.
The law had bipartisan support, receiving a unanimous vote in both the Kansas House and Senate.
Similar to other states, Kansas law now prohibits the substitute products from using terms associated with animal meat unless they also provide a this-is-not meat disclaimer — like “meat-free,” “vegan,” or “plant-based.”
Plant-based meat products continue to grow in popularity. Recent retail data shows plant-based food sales imitating animal products have grown 54%, to a total of $7.4 billion, over the last three years, according to the Good Food Institute.
Many meat alternatives sold in Kansas already used disclaimer language on packaging, including the big brand names of the meat alternative market — Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat.
In fact, the Impossible Foods mission is one of the reasons the KLA pursued the legislation. Popelka pointed to the Impossible Foods CEO Patrick Brown, who said in 2020 that the company wants to replace all animal-based meat products by 2035, according to CNBC.
Popelka said he took that to mean fake meat products are marketed to meat eaters, not vegans and vegetarians.
“(We’re) just making sure when consumers go to the grocery store, they know exactly what they are buying,” Popelka said.
The Kansas Chamber of Commerce opposed the bill for placing restrictions on businesses that sell fake meat products, including the need for companies to make labels specific for Kansas.
Dylan Lysen reports on politics for the Kansas News Service. Follow him on Twitter @DylanLysen. The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of Kansas Public Radio, KCUR, KMUW, and High Plains Public Radio, focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.