Miyoko's Creamery, an Ellen Degeneres-backed vegan food company, is defending its right to call its vegan product "butter" and "dairy." The brand is once again involved in a dispute over the callout of "butter" on its label after being hit with a class-action lawsuit in 2017, which was eventually dismissed.

This time, California's Department of Food and Agriculture sent a letter demanding the brand remove the word butter from the label, saying that it causes confusion and is misleading to customers who may think the product contains dairy. The state's department said that "butter" is a label that can only be applied to products with at least 80% milkfat. Miyoko's products, which contain 0% dairy, since they're plant-based butters and cheeses, don't qualify.

The letter also required the company to remove images of a woman hugging a cow from its website, saying that these visuals could further confuse customers because they imply a link to the dairy industry.

Fighting Big Dairy

The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) is hitting back with legal action on behalf of Miyoko's Creamery, suing the state and claiming the company's First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and expression are being violated.

"There is no legitimate, constitutional reason for the CDFA to censor Miyoko’s. The agency’s attempts to restrict terminology are unconstitutional and harm plant-based alternatives to animal products.

"The dairy industry claims that terms like 'butter' and 'cheese' on plant-based products confuse consumers, yet there is no evidence to support such claims. Moreover, animal agriculture causes immense animal suffering, pollutes the environment, and threatens human health and welfare."

Cheese and butter can be made from nut-milk, pea and oat milk, as can ice cream, cream cheese, and of course fluid milk.

These fights are the battleground where the dairy industry and meat producers are waging war against plant-based producers in an effort to slow the industry's growth. Milk companies like Dean Foods are going out of business, and giant producer Borden declared bankruptcy, as consumers' tastes shift and demand for almond, oat, and soy milk has grown exponentially in the past six years. Miyoko's Creamery is just the latest to fight back, and as these battles continue at the state level, the economic wars are being carried out at the cash register.

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