DENNIS SEID

Mississippi has a beef with purveyors of plant-based “meat” products, it seems.

In a law that went into effect July 1, “A plant-based or insect-based food product shall not be labeled as meat or a meat food product.”

According to supporters of the law, which includes the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, the law was passed in order to protect consumers from those meat-free products made from, well, not cows, chicken or pigs.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had a problem distinguishing a veggie burger from a beef burger, at least not at a grocery store.

Now as a kid going through school, those hamburgers and the meat in the spaghetti were questionable in the cafeteria. That’s when “mystery meat” really was a mystery.

But today’s packaging in the stores makes it quite clear what you’re getting.

At Kroger, for example, the Simple Truth brand has Meatless Crispy Tenders and Meatless Crispy Patties. On the package, at the top of the zipper opening, are these words: “plant based protein.”

The Gardein brand of Meatless Meatballs’ list of ingredients includes water, organic cane sugar, soy protein solate, vital wheat gluten, methylcellulose, organic ancient grain flour, organic yeast extract, pea protein, lots of spices and some other non-chicken, non-cow, non-pig ingredients.

And, oh, by the way, these products are under the big sign that says “Vegetarian.”

On the other hand, Kroger has the Cooked Perfect brand of Homestyle Meatballs. They’re gluten-free, milk-free and minimally processed made from “beef raised with no antibiotics or growth hormones.”

Flip the bag over for the ingredients list and these meatballs are made from beef, pork, water, textured soy flour, seasoning, rice flour and natural flavor.

Yep, I think I know what’s “meat” and what’s not.

As a carnivore and lover/eater of everything with four legs except tables and everything with wings except planes, I have not and will not be confused and accidentally pick up a pack of meatless meatballs.

This isn’t a knock against vegetarians or vegans, either. You do what you do. If it makes you happy and fits your diet and lifestyle, more power to you. I like (most) vegetables, although avocados and cucumbers are questionable in my eyes as edible foods.

But I digress.

Many legislators in our state often bemoan that there are too many regulations hampering business, that the free market should be allowed to do what it’s supposed to do.

Yet we have this new law that’s essentially telling us consumers we’re too dumb to know the difference between what’s “real” meat and what’s not.

How many of you have accidentally bought a pack of veggie meatballs and had to take it back to the store? Yep, that’s what I thought.

Maybe it’s a huge problem in the state capital, where people might not know the difference, and that spurred the Legislature’s desire to save us.

A bunch of meatheads, we are not.

Oh, look: one of my favorite books to read to my kid when he was little – “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.”

I better go back and see if they’re properly labeled.

» Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or dennis.seid@journalinc.com.