PHOENIX — An Arizona cattle rancher wants to ensure that anything sold to Arizonans as “meat” comes from something with at least two legs, if not more.
Rep. David Cook, R-Globe, seeks to make it illegal to “misrepresent” any product not derived from a harvested livestock or poultry animal as meat.
His proposed legislation, House Bill 2044, would define that act as the use of “any untrue, misleading or deceptive oral or written statement, advertisement, label, display, picture, illustration or sample.”
“It’s about truth in labeling,” he said.
Cook said he’s not trying to put a dent in the market for things like soy burgers. And the commercial Impossible Burger would remain legal to sell, complete with what could be mouth-watering pictures of the product.
“The ‘burger’ is not the meat,” he said. “’Burger’ is just what you grind up. It can be soy, it can be whatever.”
It’s the word “meat” that Cook is trying to protect from “what’s being done in laboratories and stuff where meat does not come from a carcass,” he said. “You can call it a ‘burger.’ You cannot call it ‘meat.’”
Similarly prohibited by HB 2044 would be any other words suggesting that what is being offered for sale or consumption has some relation with an animal that once lived.
“They can’t call it ‘ground beef,’” Cook said.
Companies would still be able to sell nonmeat “nuggets” to patrons — as long as they are not labeled as chicken.
“When you walk up to a meat counter, you know what you’re buying,” Cook said. “You know what you are putting in your body. You know what you’re consuming and what you are paying for.”
Cook proposed similar legislation last year, but with a twist: It also would have prohibited the use of the word “milk” on any product that did not come from a lactating animal, effectively saying that products could not be called “soy milk” or “almond milk.” The House voted 36-22 to kill that measure.
This time, Cook said, the dairy farmers are on their own. But he questioned whether such a measure could get legislative approval.
“They’re 15, 20 years too late,” Cook said, noting the plethora of nondairy “milk” products already on store shelves.
As for meat, he said, “We want to make sure we’re out in front of this thing before it even becomes an issue.”