Fearful Cattle Industry Targets Plant-Based Meat Product Labels

Here we go again. Now the cattle industry is fighting to prevent plant-based meat substitute products, like Beyond Beef, from using the terms “meat” or “beef” on their packaging.

The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association filed a petition on February 2, 2018 with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, arguing that lab-grown and plant-based meat alternative products should not be allowed to use the terms “meat” or “beef” on their labels.

Sound familiar? Of course it does. After all, this is just one of many industry attempts to squash vegan products that are cutting into the sales of animal-based products:

  • In 2017, Big Dairy attempted to prevent plant-based milks from using the word “milk” on their containers.
  • In 2014, Unilever claimed that Hampton Creek’s “Just Mayo” product name sounds too similar to “mayonnaise.”
  • Even the rice industry is getting in on this nonsense, arguing that “riced cauliflower” misleads consumers who want to buy actual rice.

The USCA petition argues:

[T]o eliminate the likelihood of confusion and to better inform consumers, USCA contends that labels indicating that a product is “beef” should be limited to product from cattle that have been born, raised, and harvested in the traditional manner. Similarly, products that are labeled as “meat” should be limited to those that are derived from the tissue or flesh of an animal harvested in the traditional manner.

Oh yes, it’s the old “confusion” ploy again. Consumers, the meat industry thinks you’re too stupid to understand what you’re buying. Apparently, you can’t tell the difference between a dead cow, pig or chicken and a clearly labeled meat alternative product.

Own up, meat industry. You’re worried that consumers are making an affirmative choice to eat a plant-based diet.

Big Meat and Big Dairy are running scared, and they have good reason to do so. Global sales of plant-based milks reached $5.8 billion in 2014, and they’re predicted to reach $10.9 billion by 2019, according to Forbes magazine. Conversely, between 2015 and 2020, animal-based milks are predicted to decrease by 11 percent to $15.9 billion in sales.

Meanwhile, consumers bought 16 percent more meat substitutes in 2016 — a whopping $700 million worth. We’re happily eating the Impossible Burger, Beyond Meat, Tofurky, Field Roast, Gardein, Sweet Earth, Boca Burgers and so many more.

meat alternatives

Photo credit: Susan Bird

We’re also eagerly waiting to try “clean meat” — or “cell-cultured” meat — from companies like Memphis Meats, SuperMeat and Hampton Creek. Even meat producers understand this phenomenon, and some of them — like Tyson Foods and Maple Leaf Foods – are investing in it.

Certainly, animal-based meat is in no real danger just yet, but still — $700 billion in sales means more meat alternative purchases than ever before. And that’s a heck of a lot of people voting with their wallets to protect the environment and animal welfare.

Plummeting market share for dairymen and cattlemen means change is coming — a fundamental shift in how the world eats and farms.

Interestingly, the USCA petition acknowledges:

Currently, there is no definition of what constitutes a “beef” or “meat” product. In light of the new market for synthetic products, new regulations should be adopted limiting the “beef” and “meat” labels to animals born raised, harvested, and processed in the traditional way.

Clearly, the USCA is concerned about the fact that even savvy mega-investors like Bill Gates and Richard Branson are investing serious money in products like clean meat startup Memphis Meats.

The time is now to embrace a plant-based diet. The meat and dairy industries must come to terms with the ever-growing consumer demand and shift their practices to meet it.

Photo credit: Pixabay

96 comments

Cindy S
Past Member 2 months ago

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W. C
W. C2 months ago

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William C
William C2 months ago

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Greta L
Greta L2 months ago

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DAVID f
Dave fleming2 months ago

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DAVID f
Dave fleming3 months ago

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DAVID fleming
Dave fleming3 months ago

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Angela J
Angela J3 months ago

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Richard B
Richard B3 months ago

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Janis K
Janis K3 months ago

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