We have blogged on several occasions, most recently on June 4, 2020, about state laws attempting to shield traditional producers of meat and poultry from competition from producers of plant- and cell-based meat. These statutes typically attempt to prohibit such producers from calling their product “meat.” Most such statutes have been stricken, in whole or in part, on First Amendment grounds.

The latest state to enter the fray is Oklahoma. Unlike other states, Oklahoma did not prohibit the marketing of meatless meat as meat. Instead, it required disclosure of the product’s vegan status in “type that is uniform in size and prominence to the name of the product.” Violators could be liable for $10,000 fines and even jail time.

The practical effect of this statute, however, is to prohibit sales of meatless meat in Oklahoma. No other state imposes such a requirement, so the producer has a choice: redesign the entire label for Oklahoma sales or stay out of the state. In addition, as a matter of marketing strategy, producers want the largest type for the name of the product – not a disclosure.

Upton’s Naturals and the Plant-Based Foods Association have sued to enjoin the statute. They argue that the statute compels speech. Under the First Amendment, states have the right to compel such speech only when necessary to prevent deception. Plaintiffs argue there is nothing misleading about their current labels, given that they clearly disclose the origin of the product. At the very least, therefore, the statute must survive intermediate scrutiny to satisfy the First Amendment.
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