‘Real Meat Act’ headed to governor’s desk; meat must come from slaughtered animal

Posted at 3:45 PM, Mar 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-29 18:12:26-04
Montana’s ranchers are renowned producers of superior-grade beef. (Teresa Getten/The Havre Herald)

— Tim Pierce – UM Legislative News Service

Rep. Alan Redfield, R-Livingston, sponsored the “Real Meat Act,” which has passed both the Montana House and Senate and is headed to the governor’s desk.

Redfield said the bill was written to address an emerging problem.

“Picture, if you will, on the grill a nice, juicy burger. Then picture another thing on the grill that came from a petri dish,” Redfield said.

House Bill 327 adds a definition for a cell-cultured edible product into Montana Code and redefines hamburger and ground beef as coming “entirely” from the edible flesh of a slaughtered animal.

Zuri Moreno with the ACLU opposed the bill when it was in committee in February. The bill doesn’t allow cell-cultured products to be labeled as meat, and Moreno said that distinction encroaches on First Amendment rights for free commercial speech.

“These restrictions on speech are neither necessary nor appropriate to prevent consumer deception. This bill is an unconstitutional solution in search of a problem,” Moreno said at the February hearing.

HB 327 doesn’t address plant-based meat, as did a similar billed passed by the Missouri Legislature in 2018. According to National Public Radio, the ACLU and three other organizations filed a lawsuit against the state of Missouri for violating First Amendment rights and attempting to stifle the meat-alternative industry.

In Montana, the House voted 92-to-6 this week to adopt Senate amendments to HB 327 that clean up language in the bill.

— Tim Pierce is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Greater Montana Foundation and the Montana Newspaper Association.