South Dakota livestock groups want a state law requiring fake meat be labeled for what it is,
Legislators are thinking the same thing.
The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee voted 11-0 Thursday to support misbranding legislation.
SB 68 now heads to the 70-member House of Representatives for final approval next week. It’s had a perfect reception so far after 33-0 approval from the Senate last week.
Representative Oren Lesmeister is its prime sponsor in the House. The Democratic farmer and rancher from Parade led off the testimony at the committee hearing Thursday.
The livestock industry has spent millions of dollars to promote its products to consumers and Lesmeister doesn’t want fake-meat producers free-riding on something so hard-won.
“Now we are not prohibiting the production of these products, nor are we not allowing for sale of these products. We simply want them to be labeled under a new category of their own,” Lesmeister said.
State law already says meat is something that comes from a carcass, according to Jeremiah Murphy, a lobbyist for the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association.
“We believe we’ve been very careful in putting this together,” Murphy said.
South Dakota Farmers Union lobbyist Mitch Richter said his organization’s members decided last fall to support the legislation.
“I think Senator (Gary) Cammack said it best when he said, ‘We do not want somebody to come into this state and sully the reputation of our livestock producers that have for decades promoted quality meat in South Dakota,” Richter said.
Long-time South Dakota Farm Bureau lobbyist Mike Held said his group normally doesn’t support branding but saw reason this time for an exception.
He said the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the federal Food and Drug Administration are both trying to regulate foods that resemble meat.
“On the horizon very quickly, within the next year or two, will be the reproduction of meat, taking meat cells and reproducing it in the laboratory and having a consumer product that way — and that also would be unfair competition for livestock producers,” Held said.
Other groups supporting the bill at the hearing were the South Dakota Pork Producers and the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association.
Murphy said passing the legislation wouldn’t require more inspectors.
“I understand that occasionally violators are found, not within this scope that we’ve discussed, but there are other types of misbranding,” Murphy said. “There will be no need for any more bureaucracy. There’s a system in place to inspect and find this, and this bill would just add this to the list of things for which they examine and enforce the laws.”