A trio of bills designed to ensure that vegetarian and vegan foods sold in Wisconsin cannot be labeled as meat, milk, or dairy if they don’t contain those products, passed unanimously last week in the state’s Assembly.
Proponents of the legislation, referred to as “truth in labeling” measures, argue that these requirements will better protect Wisconsin’s agriculture economy by educating consumers about what they deem to be misleading food labels.
One bill deals with labeling on milk products and requires only milk that comes from cows, goats, or other hooved mammals to be classified as milk. A second bill prohibits the use of terms “cream,” “yogurt,” or “cheese” on products that don’t include dairy. The third deals with the use of the words “meat,” “bacon,” or similar terms unless the product includes animal flesh.
Wisconsin state representative Travis Tranel, one of the authors of the bills, expressed the importance of protecting the markets that farmers have developed in the state through public education programs. “Consumers deserve to know when they’re spending their hard-earned dollars on dairy that it’s actually milk from a cow or a goat,” he says. “Same thing with meat. When they decide that they want to purchase meat they need to know where that’s from, and I think that’s fair.”
The Plant Based Foods Association, an opponent of the bills, argues that the legislation presents presents a “misguided attack on innovation and all food producers’ free speech rights.”
The bills now head to the senate and Gov. Tony Evers has said on record that he will likely sign the bills if they reach his desk; however, the laws would only take effect if 10 states out of a group of 15 approve similar bans by 2031. To date, both Maryland and North Carolina have passed milk labeling laws that can’t go into effect unless other states follow suit. A total of 17 states have passed some sort of meat labeling law.