The plaintiffs in this case market products such as “tofurky,” “vegetarian ham roast,” and “vegan jerky.” In 2018, the Missouri Legislature amended its meat advertising regulation to criminalize plant-based and lab-grown meats from being misrepresented as a meat. See Mo. Rev. Stat. § 265.494(7). The plaintiffs brought this lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the new statute, as it applied to them, and asked for a preliminary injunction. The district court denied the request finding that the plaintiffs’ marketing clearly indicated that the products do not contain meat; therefore, the statute did not prohibit their speech and the plaintiffs were not likely to succeed on their First Amendment claim.
On appeal, the plaintiffs claimed the district court applied the wrong legal standard and too narrowly interpreted the statute. After determining that the commercial speech standard applied to the plaintiffs’ claim, the Eighth Circuit next considered whether the plaintiffs’ products misrepresented meat and was therefore prohibited by the statute. The Missouri Department of Agriculture had issued guidance explaining that the new law did not prohibit packages which both contained a prominent disclosures that the product is “plant-based” and “made from plants” because the product did not misrepresent meat. The State did not claim that the plaintiffs’ products misrepresented meat. Additionally, the plaintiffs claimed that their products are “clearly labeled as plant based, vegan, or vegetarian.” Because it was unlikely the statute would be applied to their speech, the plaintiffs are unlikely to succeed on their merits of their as-applied First Amendment Claim. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court’s ruling denying the preliminary injunction.
Turtle Island Foods_v. Thompson, 2021 WL 1165406 (8th Cir. March 29, 2021).