The Fight Over Defining Plant-Based Milk And Meat (Opinion)

Citizens are learning about the myriad abuses of industrialized animal agriculture, and they are seeking healthier and more responsible alternatives. As a result, the demand for plant-based foods to replace meat, dairy and eggs is growing, which has agribusiness profiteers worried. Factory-farm lobbyists are pushing for new laws and regulations to slow down these emerging competitors, including efforts to control how words such as “milk” and “meat” can be used.

Milk

The dairy industry wants to prevent nondairy milks from being marketed as “milk,” and has introduced federal legislation to ban using the word “milk” except to label “lacteal secretions.” Industry operatives and lobbyists want to counteract declining sales by regulating marketing labels and speciously argue that people are confused by the word “milk” on packages of nondairy products. In fact, labels that specify the source of milk, such as “soy milk” or “almond milk,” are more descriptive and clear, as they indicate the source of products, which are used in many of the same contexts as dairy milk. Consumers are not likely to be confused.

For decades, the dairy industry, along with other factory-farming interests, has invested heavily in the political system, and it is a perennial recipient of preferential policies and government subsidies.

And similar to the way dairy promoters want to control the term “milk,” the slaughter industry wants to regulate the term “meat” so that plant-based burgers and other alternatives to animal flesh cannot use the term.

Animal agriculture is deeply entrenched, but its inhumane and irresponsible practices are outside the bounds of acceptable conduct. Factory-farm operators want to keep consumers in the dark, but awareness is growing, and citizens are demanding a more humane and sustainable food system. Innovative businesses are now producing plant foods to replace animal products. We can be far more efficient, and feed more people with fewer resources by eating plants directly instead of growing and harvesting crops to feed and fatten farm animals.

Rather than misleading consumers, undermining free speech and discouraging a discussion of unsavory truths in our industrial food system, agriculture needs to evolve.

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