This week, Tofurky’s vegan offerings have been legitimized as “real” burgers and sausages. The Tofurky Company and other producers of plant-based meat products have fought to use words like “burger” and “sausage,” which were once relegated to beef, pork, and other animal proteins.
Now herbal products can use these words on packaging. It comes after a landmark lawsuit filed in the state of Louisiana that took nearly two years of legal wrangling to settle. A judge of the United States District Court for the Intermediate District of Louisiana has ruled that the state’s labeling law cannot limit the use of the words “burger” and “sausage” to mean only products made from meat of animal origin.
The original legislation went into effect on October 1, 2020, aimed at protecting animal agriculture industries in the state of Louisiana. The law imposed a fine of up to $500 a day on companies that label plant-based products with “burger” and “sausage,” whether the packaging clearly states that the ingredients are vegan. Tofurky filed a lawsuit against the State of Louisiana on October 7, 2020, with assistance from the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and the Good Food Institute (GFI).
“Louisiana’s labeling law was a clear and unconstitutional attempt to protect the animal agriculture industry from competition within the growing market for foods not derived from slaughtered or confined animals, which do not include the same risks to human health, animals and the environment,” ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells said in a statement. “Under the First Amendment, companies have the right to market and label their products in a truthful way that consumers will recognize and that aligns with their values.”
Tofurky’s legal team challenged the Louisiana law, saying it interfered with First Amendment rights by improperly censoring the truth. Sponsored by Representative Francis Thompson, the law was intended to protect Louisiana’s animal-based agriculture from growing competition emerging from the plant-based and cultured meat sectors. While noting the dangers of this form of legislation, Tofurky and corporate funders also recognized the benefit of helping the transition to a unified and sustainable food system to reduce fear of competition.
“The Court made the correct decision in finding that Louisiana law unconstitutionally restricts free speech,” Laura Braden, GFI’s senior regulatory advisor, said in a statement. “Louisiana consumers deserve better than to be patronized by lawmakers who want to control what they buy. Consumers don’t confuse veggie burgers with beef burgers when labels clearly state products are plant-based , meatless, vegetarian or vegan, and it insults their intelligence to suggest otherwise.
“Laws like this are unfortunate and should be reversed given what is at stake: a more sustainable food system that works for everyone – farmers, food companies, consumers and entire communities.”
New standard for vegan meat labels
Despite the challenges and difficulties presented by animal agriculture giants, the plant-based meat market is seeing unprecedented public acceptance – with some reports claiming that 62% of US households now regularly purchase plant-based products . But the growing popularity has worried major meat players around the world. Another report even predicted that plant-based proteins will become cheaper than traditional beef as early as 2023, making plant-based meat products more accessible to people around the world.
With growing competition, several states have introduced laws similar to Louisiana’s labeling restriction. Now Tofurky – with continued support from GFI and ALDF – plans to challenge these restrictive labeling regulations. In 2019, the organizations filed a lawsuit against a comparable law in Arkansas, and a federal court also stopped the application.
“The Louisiana court saw through the spurious pretense under which this law was passed and rightly intervened to protect the First Amendment rights of companies like Tofurky and the rights of Louisianans to have unfettered access to healthier and more sustainable foods of their choice. Tofurky President and CEO Jaime Athos said in a statement.
“The law was a clear attempt to give animal agriculture interests an unfair advantage by stifling the growth of plant-based food sales, and this decision serves as a warning to other state legislatures who may forget that they are elected to meet the needs of their constituents, not those of particular corporate interests.
The battle of plant-based dairy products for labels
Last summer, vegan dairy brand Miyoko’s Creamery won a similar lawsuit against the California Department of Food and Agriculture. The lawsuit determined that plant-based dairy could legally use the terms “butter” and “dairy” on the products without legal repercussions. Also aided by the ALDF, Miyoko’s Creamery set a new precedent for labeling laws in the United States, helping the entire plant-based alternative industry.
Today, Tofurky celebrates its victory for sustainability and plant industries. Along with Miyoko’s Creamery, these vegan brands and organizations intend to bring vegan food to the forefront despite big corporations’ attempts to jeopardize their ability to market.
“Consumers aren’t confused — they’re actively and wisely choosing plant-based burgers, hot dogs, sausages and cheese because they’re better choices for the future of our planet,” Athos said. “Our fight to overturn this unconstitutional labeling censorship law has been a long journey, but today marks a moment of progress and a significant step in the right direction.”
The 6 best fast food chains with plant-based options on the menu
Fast food restaurants have finally gotten the message that their customers don’t just come for a burger, fried chicken or beef taco. Many now have plant-based foods and come up with creative and delicious ways to add more greens to the menu. Here are the 6 best fast food chains with plant-based options on the menu.