The Nebraska Unicameral bill for truth in advertising and labeling in the sale of meat and providing a penalty for non-compliance was looking pretty popular.

Since Sen. Carol Blood, D-Bellevue, introduced it, Legislative Bill (LB) 14 had picked up five co-sponsors in the nation’s only nonpartisan legislative body. Blood, a business consultant elected in 2016, pulled a surprise move of her own on Tuesday when the Unicameral went back into session after the Marlin Luther King holiday.

Blood introduced a motion to withdraw LB 14, a move not explained in the Unicameral’s journal or anyplace else. Blood did not issue a press release or explain the action, which is pending, on her district website. She could not be reached for comment.

Sometimes bills are withdrawn only to be re-introduced with more precise language.

It was during the most recent legislative season that Missouri became the first U.S. state to regulate when the term “meat” can be used on a product label. Missouri’s action is now the subject of federal court challenges.

The Missouri General Assembly acted in defense of the state’s traditional meat industry at a time when protein alternatives will likely be hitting the market.

No one was surprised that Nebraska would want to join Missouri. The Cornhusker state is the nation’s second-leading producer of beef and it is in the Top 10 for pork producers.

Many expect other “meaty” states to adopt bills like Missouri’s during the current legislative season. It makes Blood’s withdrawal of the Nebraska bill all the more curious.

Banning labeling of meat substitutes as “meat” are offered as consumer protection measures.   Just as substitutes like almond milk have been banned by some states from carrying the word “milk” on their labels, the meat industry hopes to use the same tactic. The dairy industry is currently pressuring the Food and Drug Administration to impose such a ban nationwide.

Proponents of the label restrictions also argue that “meat” has a distinct definition involving an animal product and cannot be applied to plant-based alternatives.

Opponents of the bill state that there is no confusion, that nobody really mistakes Tofurkey for turkey, and that the bill is designed to protect one industry’s interests, rather than the interests of the public. It would make it a crime to advertise or sell something “as meat that is not derived from poultry or livestock.”

When she introduced her bill, Blood said it was in support of state farm groups in hopes for the betterment of Nebraska and its future agricultural growth.

“I’m not bringing this bill to tell people what they can and can’t eat,” Blood said. “All I’m asking for is truth in advertising. It’s clear that meat comes from livestock, and livestock is our livelihood in Nebraska.”

Jessica Almy, director of policy for Good Food Institute, believes the Nebraska bill could result in confusion.

“The bill would censor food labels and create consumer confusion where there is none,” Almy said, “You can’t censor speech just to promote one industry’s financial success.

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