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Proposed bill accuses plant-based products of mislabeling, hurting dairy industry

The American Vegan Society is one group coming out against the legislation
Published: Apr. 25, 2021 at 5:42 PM CDT
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APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) - Cindy and Kevin Hamm started the Free Market 18 years ago selling organic, natural local foods, including beef and chicken.

“That’s our goal is to provide food that is healthy, so there’s no artificial colors. No preservatives in the food that’s here. It’s the way food was made and eaten like 150 years ago,” Kevin Hamm said.

Hamm says the independent grocery store, located on 734 Wisconsin Ave. in Appleton, has seen a growth in locals buying plant-based products such as almond milk, vegan cheese, and beyond meat, just to name a few.

“It’s much more environmentally draining to raise beef and chicken as a protein source, as opposed to having plant-based sources,” Hamm said. “So those people who are concerned about global warming, it takes much less resources to eat a plant-based diet than it does a meat-based diet.”

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) is a co-sponsor to the Dairy Pride Act, which would restrict non-dairy products from using dairy terms such as milk, cheese, and yogurt.

“Whether it’s the well-being of our hardworking dairy farmers or the deception of the consumer, we want to put a stop to this mislabeling of these fake dairy products,” Baldwin said.

According to Baldwin, dairy products are held to higher federal standards of nutrition and quality that does not exist for plant-based foods.

“They are using dairy’s good name frankly for their own economic benefits, and the Food and Drug Administration has not made it a priority to go after this mislabeling,” Baldwin said.

The American Vegan Society disagrees with the legislation and says it’s strictly helping the dairy industry not consumers.

“Most of the plant-based products have already been proactive about this and are minimizing that terminology on their label,” Vance Lehmkuhl, director of marketing and communication at the American Vegan Society, said.

Americans spent $7 billion last year on plant-based foods, according to the Plant Based Food Association. Most of it was on milk alternatives.

“Plant-based alternative milks are superior in so far as they contain zero cholesterol. All animal products contain cholesterol,” Lehmkuhl said.

As for Hamm and his shop the Free Market, he said it would be hard to label vegan cheese as something else if this bill were to be signed into law since the term has to do with the flavoring.

“In Wisconsin being the dairy state, we are very protective of that heritage. But at the same time, I don’t know how else you would label that,” said Hamm.

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