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posted by martyb on Monday July 08 2019, @02:19AM   Printer-friendly
from the one-soy-based-hemispherical-cross-section-please dept.

A new law in Mississippi(1) makes it illegal to refer to plant and cell-culture based patties as 'burgers'.

The law would also prohibit the use of "burger" or "dog" in relation to vat-grown, cell-based food, which is made of meat. The statute reserves these appelations for foodstuffs derived from "slaughtered livestock."

The law has naturally been challenged by parties such as the Good Food Institute and the American Civil Liberties Union among others. In a nutshell

The contention on the meat industry side is:

Mike McCormick, president of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation: "This bill will protect our cattle farmers from having to compete with products not harvested from an animal."

The contention on the other side is:

"There's nothing misleading about the name of a veggie burger, or vegan hot dog, or seitan bacon," Almy, a lawyer on the Missouri case, told me. "The packages clearly disclose that this is plant-based food that has the taste or texture of this familiar food."

A typical American would likely fall somewhere between these two views.

I fully understand (and at times enjoy) 'veggie burgers', however I had to look up 'seitan bacon' (FYI - a traditional Japanese wheat based food that is meat-like) and would not have known what it was at a glance (does super-seitan bacon go to 9000 calories?)

So where do patrons of Soylent Words-Related-to-Current-Happenings fall on this one?

(1) - Note TFA bounces between Missouri and Mississippi actions. There are similar labeling laws in both states. SB 627 in Missouri and SB 2922 in Mississippi.

Related: U.S. Cattlemen's Association Wants an Official Definition of "Meat"
Regulation Coming to Lab-Grown Meat


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  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by AthanasiusKircher on Monday July 08 2019, @03:03AM (13 children)

    by AthanasiusKircher (5291) on Monday July 08 2019, @03:03AM (#864302) Journal

    From the opening of TFA:

    FDA (totally not in thrall to Big Dairy): we're going to ban calling almond milk "milk"; Mississippi State legislature (totally not in thrall to Big Ag): hold my beer.

    Whenever the milk issue came up recently, I argued that the FDA had a legitimate point. I understand some might not agree with it, but "milk" has had a well-known definition going back a millennium in English and very similar words existed in other languages before. The EU has defined "milk" similarly as secretions of mammals. Whether or not the FDA is "in thrall to Big Dairy," I can see a legitimate argument for separating "milk" from the various nut and grain juices (which is what they really are) based on history and based on the fact that mammalian milk has a pretty well-defined set of chemical properties which make it useful as an ingredient in a lot of things, and many of these other "milks" don't share those properties. (Hence a lot of internet questions about -- "can I use soy/almond/oat milk in X?" These are different products than a rather fundamental ingredient.) I have nothing against these various other white juices, and I've enjoyed them myself. But are they "milk"?

    On the other hand, I can also see the other side -- people have been calling white liquids from vegetable sources "milk" occasionally for at least a couple centuries (and some claim for significantly longer). So I can see both sides.

    But this Mississippi thing is preposterous on its face. First of all, TFA suggests it's a "jailable offense" to call something a "burger" or a "dog," which is already absurd to place such a criminal penalty on language usage. But the other issue is etymology and usage. "Burger" comes from "hamburger," supposedly named after the town of Hamburg in Germany. (It has nothing to do with ham.) So, "burger" is NOT identifying anything specifically as meat-based necessarily. There's no long history where "burger" meant primarily "meat" -- it's just based on a word that referred to something like a regional dish, which had a lot of variation, and that's when it was still called a "hamburger steak." The word "burger" is even further removed from that.

    And the suffix "dog" has even less of a certain connection to meat. (One could argue about the long history of jokes about what's in the hot dogs anyway too...) Both hot dogs and hamburgers have long histories of all sorts of "fillers" showing up in them too, many of them officially acknowledged by cooks as ways to "stretch" the meat or even make things that were mostly things other than meat.

    Furthermore, my argument about milk depends on the fact that the other white juice products are significantly different chemically and nutritionally. But this law seeks to even deny "burger" and "dog" status to products made literally of chemically identical meat just because it was grown in a lab. That seems even crazier to me.

    So, while I can at least see an argument for being a little more specific about the use of "milk" as a term, this law is patently absurd.

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  • (Score: 2) by AthanasiusKircher on Monday July 08 2019, @03:11AM

    by AthanasiusKircher (5291) on Monday July 08 2019, @03:11AM (#864305) Journal

    Oh, one last thing -- I don't know whether being "absurd" is enough to question legality in this case. According to federal law and federal court rulings, states have pretty broad regulatory authority. There are lots of absurd laws on the books. So I'm not sure how this will go legally...

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by PartTimeZombie on Monday July 08 2019, @03:36AM (6 children)

    by PartTimeZombie (4827) on Monday July 08 2019, @03:36AM (#864316)

    Mike McCormick, president of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation: "This bill will protect our cattle farmers from having to compete with products not harvested from an animal."

    which might be shortened to:

    Mike McCormick, president of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation: "This bill will protect our cattle farmers from having to compete.

    Although unless the vat-grown or plant-based producers can get themselves subsidized in the same fashion that the farmers have I wonder if they will be able to compete on price anyway.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by sgleysti on Monday July 08 2019, @04:05AM (2 children)

      by sgleysti (56) on Monday July 08 2019, @04:05AM (#864323)

      Although unless the vat-grown or plant-based producers can get themselves subsidized in the same fashion that the farmers have I wonder if they will be able to compete on price anyway.

      Plants take a lot fewer resources to grow than animals, especially when considering the caloric value or even the mass of the resulting food. You have a very valid point about vat-grown, but in that case, if the end product is animal flesh, what else is it besides meat?

      • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Monday July 08 2019, @05:41AM (1 child)

        by c0lo (156) on Monday July 08 2019, @05:41AM (#864355) Journal

        Plants take a lot fewer resources to grow than animals, especially when considering the caloric value or even the mass of the resulting food.

        Have you figured out why the humans are omnivorous, though?

        You have a very valid point about vat-grown, but in that case, if the end product is animal flesh, what else is it besides meat?

        Well, that's a big if that you have there.
        Not as big as "if ever FTL travel will become possible" but certainly harder that "scale down the gate sizes to 3 nm in the current CPU-es".

        --
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 08 2019, @10:36PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 08 2019, @10:36PM (#864731)

          Have you figured out why the humans are omnivorous, though?

          Outsourcing.

          Seriously: protein production/fabrication, bio-accumulation of trace minerals, and in the case of pigs, turning crap into something tasty!
    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 08 2019, @09:14AM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 08 2019, @09:14AM (#864403)

      I don't think this is a fair take on two points. First, let's consider champagne. The reason that most champagne in the US is called sparkling wine is because only champagne made and bottled in France is legally allowed to be called champagne. Incidentally, there was a local wine in Champagne, Switzerland that predates French Champagne by hundreds of years. They were forced to change their product's name by the EU. Aren't supernations awesome! Okay, snark aside I had a point. That is that in spite of that insanity, sparkling wine does fine.

      But in this case the regulation actually makes sense. Sparkling wine made in Champagne, France or Napa Valley, USA is a fundamentally identical product with the only variation coming in terms of product quality and the exact process. Not dissimilar to e.g. corporate chicken meat vs free range chicken meat. But hamburgers and e.g. "impossible burgers" are just entirely different things. One has an ingredient list of 'meat'. One is a lab grown concoction loaded with additives, coloring, chemicals, compounds, and other ingredients to try to replicate the taste, texture, and appearance of the former. Precisely:

      Hamburger: meat

      Impossible Burger: water, soy protein concentrate, coconut oil, sunflower oil, potato protein, methylcellulose, yeast Extract, cultured dextrose, modified food starch, soy leghemoglobin, salt, soy protein isolate, mixed tocopherols, zinc gluconate, thiamine hydrochloride, sodium ascorbate, niacin, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin, cobalamin

      And so in this case in any way suggesting they are the same thing is simply not a very reasonable thing to do. There's clearly some market for these type of concoctions and so they're not going to lose their market by renaming to something that more clearly represents what they are - they'll only lose the people that were purchasing these things without understanding what they were. And that's a good example of actual consumer-oriented regulation.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 08 2019, @04:02PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 08 2019, @04:02PM (#864545)

        I think they should legally be required to call them a food substance that is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike hamburger.

      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday July 09 2019, @02:41AM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday July 09 2019, @02:41AM (#864822) Journal

        But hamburgers and e.g. "impossible burgers" are just entirely different things.

        Not really. They're both protein rich patties. The other thing is that champagne is a trademark. Burger and bacon aren't trademarked by anyone. Under present US law, they can't be trademarked as food products because they are in common usage. Sure, if you want to trademark Bacon for anti-virus software, sure. But for food products? No way.

        The phrase "Impossible burger" on the other hand can be so trademarked and is. What is interesting about this law is that it's attempting to make illegal use of this trademark even though there is no compelling reason for the law. I think it'll fail on First Amendment law grounds, but the process could be pretty ugly.

  • (Score: 2) by mhajicek on Monday July 08 2019, @04:19AM (3 children)

    by mhajicek (51) Subscriber Badge on Monday July 08 2019, @04:19AM (#864335)

    What do you call coconut milk?

    --
    The spacelike surfaces of time foliations can have a cusp at the surface of discontinuity. - P. Hajicek
    • (Score: 2) by AthanasiusKircher on Monday July 08 2019, @05:03AM (2 children)

      by AthanasiusKircher (5291) on Monday July 08 2019, @05:03AM (#864349) Journal

      Coconut "milk" is like most of the other products -- it is an engineered juice/extract from a vegetal source. I assume you're not talking about coconut "water" or coconut "juice" (i.e., the actual liquid found in coconuts, which is NOT called "coconut milk").

      Anyhow, as I said, I can see both sides of the milk issue. And coconut milk is the ONE authorized exception I believe in the EU, due to the long history of the term. Also, chemically and nutritionally there's an argument for some greater semblance.

      The question, to my mind, if you allow any white liquid to be called "milk," what are the parameters? Does it need to have a certain nutritional or chemical profile? Does it need to have a certain viscosity? Should it react to temperature changes in certain specified ways? Or is it enough just to vaguely process some vegetal matter and extract some white liquidy substance?

      Language is arbitrary. But words become useful when they mean something. Where we draw the line determines to some extent whether the words are useful. Nobody is calling tomato juice "tomato milk,* so is it just color that defines "milk"? Well, what about parsnip juice? That's white, but maybe wrong texture/viscosity. And responds differently to temperature than most other engineered vegetal "milks."

      Point is: I might be okay with calling various engineered vegetal juices/puree mixtures "milks" is we had a better official definition of what parameters you need to satisfy to call your product "milk." Because lots of people want to use their "milk" as an ingredient in all sorts of things (unlike burgers and dogs, which are generally consumed in very specific ways). It seems to me we need to legally define "milk" somehow...

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 08 2019, @02:51PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 08 2019, @02:51PM (#864506)

        Total BS. Coconut "water" is EXACTLY what coconut milk is. No "engineering" required.

      • (Score: 2) by dry on Tuesday July 09 2019, @03:12AM

        by dry (223) on Tuesday July 09 2019, @03:12AM (#864839) Journal

        I've always known the liquid that comes out of a ripe coconut as coconut milk, though looking, it seems the definition has changed, perhaps it's an American thing.
        Likewise, milk has always been used for various products, dairy milk, nut milk etc. To quote wiki, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plant_milk [wikipedia.org]

        In English, the word "milk" has been used to refer to "milk-like plant juices" since 1200 AD.[5]

        Anyways, if we're going to give into the marketers, who want to poison us with animal milk, hot dogs should only refer to dog meat, or accept that language changes, sometimes for stupid reasons.

  • (Score: 2) by Arik on Monday July 08 2019, @06:25AM

    by Arik (4543) on Monday July 08 2019, @06:25AM (#864365) Journal
    Mostly with you, but;

    ""Burger" comes from "hamburger," supposedly named after the town of Hamburg in Germany. (It has nothing to do with ham.) So, "burger" is NOT identifying anything specifically as meat-based necessarily."

    Nope, it comes from "Hamburger Steak" i.e. steak in the style of a Hamburg resident, stereotypically frugal, that is to say chopped and pressed. From there it progressed to a "Hamburger Steak Sandwich" which was just a bit of a mouthful for the thing once it became a common meal, and so it was eventually shortened to 'Hamburger.'

    --
    If laughter is the best medicine, who are the best doctors?