ST. LOUIS – The 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a Missouri statute that banned companies from marketing any product as “meat” that does not come from livestock or poultry.
The ruling affirmed a decision from the 2019 District Court that previously denied a preliminary injunction by Turtle Island Foods, which was doing business as The Tofurky Co. The Good Food Institute (GFI), an alternative protein advocacy group, was also a defendant in the case.
They argued Missouri violates the First Amendment by censoring free commercial speech.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who worked with the defendants in the case, said in a statement that the appeal was a victory for Missouri farmers, ranchers and consumers.
“Ensuring that the food that Missourians buy is marketed correctly is of vital importance to both the consumers and the farmers and ranchers that produce that food,” Schmitt said. “We will continue to defend the State against any further appeals or challenges in this case.”
Senior US Circuit Judge Michael Melloy wrote the decision, which said that there is significant doubt if the statute would or could ever be applied to speech.
“The burden is on plaintiffs to demonstrate they are likely to succeed on the merits of their as-applied First Amendment claim, which includes explaining how the statute applies to their current and intended commercial speech,” Melloy wrote.
Missouri first enacted the meat labeling statute in 2018. A violation is a Class A misdemeanor punishable with a fine up to $1,000 and a year in prison.
“A bipartisan majority in the General Assembly made clear their intent to ensure marketing with integrity,” said Mike Deering, executive vice president of the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association. “Attorney General Schmitt and his team aggressively defended that intent and farm and ranch families are grateful.”