Upton's Naturals Sues State of Mississippi for Free Speech Violation in Response to Labeling Laws

Uptons

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  • by Zak Shelton

It is becoming more apparent every day that cattle ranchers are shaking in their boots. As someone who grew up on a cattle ranch, this brings mixed emotions. But, at the end of the day, it is just another piece of evidence… we are winning.

Yesterday, Upton’s Naturals, an industry leading vegan CPG based in Chicago, filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Mississippi for their right to free speech. This came as a response to the new state labeling laws criminalizing the use of meat analog terms on the packaging of plant-based foods. This law, like laws in many other states such as Missouri, states that using meat terms, such as “sausage,” “bacon,” “meat,” etc. is a felony offense punishable by up to one year of imprisonment per instance (in Missouri, most notably, each offense is punishable by up to two years).

In a statement to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Andy Gipson, Agriculture Commissioner for the state of Mississippi said “As we have seen with many foods in the past, label names allowed to be on new foods can be detrimental to the foods they attempt to imitate, emulate, follow, or profit from.”

To further exemplify the fear of the leaders in the industry, Mississippi Farm Bureau President Mike McCormick, after the bill passed, stated: “This bill will protect our cattle farmers from having to compete with products not harvested from an animal.”

Industry leaders and lobbyists are realizing what the future holds and are fighting against the eventuality of their downfall… brought about by you, the plant-based and conscious consumer.

I had the incredible pleasure of sitting down with Nicole Sopko, Vice President and Co-Founder of Upton’s Naturals to speak with her about what this lawsuit means to her and to the future of the plant-based foods industry.

Nicole states, “We are not out to deceive anyone with our packaging, as we are very proudly vegan and make an effort in communicating that clearly. Veganism is a selling point for our products, not something we would ever try to hide. Laws to prevent deceptive labeling are already in place and we would never object to those, but we do object to an entire industry using their political influence to their competitive advantage. That is not how either democracy or capitalism works. We will continue to fight for an even playing field for ourselves and all other members of our industry.”

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