Non-meat patty, ok.
Non-meat patty, ok. Burger, NO. In Mississippi, at least. iStock / Getty Images Plus

As demand for plant-based meats dramatically rises throughout the US, companies specializing in the bad old method of slaughtering animals and fowl are feeling threatened by the competition, and the meat lobby has sprung into action.

Mississippi bolstered its rep as one of America's stupidest states by passing a law that forbids grocery stores from using the phrase "veggie burgers" for non-meat patties. Effective July 1, labels for plant-based meat products such as "veggie burger" or "vegan hotdog" are forbidden there, with violators potentially facing jail time. A similar law passed in Missouri last year.

The rationale given for the law is that labeling non-meat products "burgers" or "hotdogs" is confusing to consumers. It's as if meat manufacturers think Mississippi's citizens are as dense as cultural elites have long assumed they are. The reality is, the flavor of plant-based meat substitutes has improved to the degree that carnivores increasingly crave them. If you can satiate your taste buds while doing less harm to the environment, why would you choose otherwise?

In reaction to this wrongheaded legislation and to safeguard the First Amendment right to label foods in a comprehensible manner, vegan food company Upton’s Naturals and the Plant Based Foods Association are linking up with the Institute for Justice to sue the state of Mississippi.

“People are not confused by terms like ‘veggie burger’ or ‘vegan hot dog,’” Institute for Justice Managing Attorney Justin Pearson said in a press release. “No one thinks plant-based burgers or vegan hot dogs contain meat. To the contrary, those terms tell consumers that they are buying exactly what they want: a plant-based alternative to animal meat. By banning the terms customers understand best, Mississippi is not only creating confusion, but also violating the First Amendment rights of both sellers and consumers.”

Upton’s Naturals founder Daniel Staackmann elaborated: “Our labels are not trying to trick consumers into buying our vegan foods. We aim to clearly communicate what our foods are made from for those actively seeking vegan foods and others considering incorporating them into their diet... Mississippi’s law is not about clearing up consumer confusion, it’s about stifling competition and putting plant-based companies at a disadvantage in the marketplace.”