An Arizona cattle rancher wants to ensure that anything sold to Arizonans as "meat'' came from something with at least two legs, if not more.
But Rep. David Cook, R-Globe, insists it won't prevent people from calling things a "burger'' -- or even a "steak'' -- as long as there's no claim that it's beef, chicken, pork or anything that was other than a living, breathing animal at one time.
Cook's legislation seeks to make it illegal to "misrepresent'' any product not derived from a harvested livestock or poultry animal as meat. More to the point, HB 2044 would define that act as the use of "any untrue, misleading or deceptive oral or written statement, advertisement, label, display, picture, illustration or sample.''
"It's about truth in labeling,'' he said.
Cook told Capitol Media Services he's not trying to put a dent in the market for things like soy burgers. And even the commercial Impossible Burger would remain legal to sell, complete with what could be mouth-watering pictures of the product.
"The 'burger' is not the meat,'' he explained. "'Burger' is just what you grind up,'' Cook continued. "It can be soy, it can be whatever.''
It's that word "meat'' that Cook is trying to protect against future incursions.
"This is what's being done in laboratories and stuff where meat does not come from a carcass,'' he said. "You can call it a 'burger,' '' he said. "You cannot call it 'meat.' ''
Similarly prohibited by HB 2044 would be any other words that would suggest that what is being offered for sale or consumption has some relation with something that actually lived.
"They can't call it 'ground beef,' '' Cook said. Similarly, companies would still be able to sell "nuggets'' to patrons -- as long as they are not labeled as chicken.
"When you walk up to a meat counter, you know what you're buying,'' he said. "You know what you are putting in your body. You know what you're consuming and what you are paying for.''
Cook attempted similar legislation last year, but with a twist: It also would have prohibited the use of the word "milk'' on any product that did not come from a lactating animal, effectively saying that products could not be called "soy milk'' or "almond milk.'' That proved too much as the House voted 36-22 to kill the plan.
This time, Cook said, the dairy farmers are on their own. But he questioned whether such a measure could get legislative approval.
"They're 15, 20 years too late,'' Cook said, with the plethora of non-dairy "milk'' products already on store shelves. "We want to make sure we're out in front of this thing before it even becomes an issue.''