Wisconsin Assembly okays Truth in Milk, Truth in Meat legislation

Wisconsin is a step closer to drawing a line between milk from a cow and juice from an almond.
The Wisconsin State Capitol

The Wisconsin Assembly on Tuesday passed a series of truth in labeling proposals.

The first would declare that milk comes only from cows or other animals.

“If it is not from a cow, or a goat, or a hoofed mammal it is not milk, therefore it is not dairy,” Rep. Travis Tranel, R-Cuba City told The Center Square.

Tranel, who is a dairy farmer, led the push to clarify the labeling rules for milk, cheese, ice cream, yogurt, and other dairy products.

“Farmers themselves, through check-offs, have invested hundreds of millions of dollars through the years developing these markets,” Tranel said. “To make sure that consumers know the nutritious health benefits to these products.”

Tranel said new plant-based products are looking to “piggyback” on those efforts to sell their version of milk, cheese and other dairy-derived products.

“I think they’re going to have to label it what it is,” Rep. Clint Moses, R-Menomonie, said Tuesday. “Maybe veggie-byproduct, or in the case of almond milk, nut juice.”

Moses sponsored a truth in meat law. He too is a farmer.

Agriculture is Wisconsin’s second largest industry, behind only manufacturing. Tranel says ag is worth $90 billion to the state, and over half of that is the state’s dairy industry. Wisconsin license plates proudly claim to be America’s Dairyland.

“If you want to call it cheese, or yogurt, or ice cream then it needs to come from dairy,” Tranel explained.

The truth in labeling plans passed on largely Republican-only votes. In fact Tranel said politics, not the specifics of the legislation, could doom them.

“We’ve requested to talk to Gov Evers about six different topics over the last several months, and unfortunately we have not heard back from him,” Tranel explained. “This governor, unfortunately, his staff keeps him pretty secluded and pretty secure. It has proved very difficult to get a hold on him, even if you are in the legislature.”

The truth in labeling plans next head to the Wisconsin Senate. If they pass there, the proposals will move to the governor’s desk.