Calling Veggie Substitutes "Meat" Is Now Illegal in Missouri

©. Stepanek Photography/Shutterstock

Missouri just became the first (and hopefully last) state in the country to ban the word "meat" on veggie products. Even using the term "plant-based meats" can land you in jail for a year.

Guess which industry pushed this bill through. Go ahead, guess.

barn owl staring

© Anan Kaewkhammul/ShutterstockIt's the beef industry (shocker). The Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, to be specific.

This isn't just happening in Missouri. The American beef industry has been trying to get the word "meat" banned from veggie products for years, and it's trying to make this a country-wide rule.

"Our goal is to head off the problem before it becomes a larger issue," Lia Biondo, the U.S. Cattlemen's Association policy and outreach director, told CNBC a few months ago.

"While at this time alternative protein sources are not a direct threat to the beef industry, we do see improper labeling of these products as misleading," added Biondo, not sounding defensive at all. Because that's what people who don't feel threatened do, right? They go around telling everyone that they don't feel threatened.

In all seriousness, the beef industry probably should be scared. Americans ate 20 percent less beef in 2014 than they did in 2005. Veggie meat substitutes, by contrast, are a growing industry. And who knows what'll happen when lab-based meats start making it into grocery stores.

Other companies that make animal products are also getting scared. A few years ago, the egg industry tried to sue a vegan mayonnaise company for calling itself "mayonnaise" despite having no eggs. This proved just a tad too convoluted though, and it didn't go through.

Despite the Missouri bill's success, I'm not sure it'll send the message the beef industry wants. I've never heard of a shopper not being able to distinguish between Tofurky and turkey. The Missouri government isn't protecting the people of Missouri; it's just calling them stupid. And in my experience, people don't like being called stupid.