In a moment of deja vu yet another bill has been proposed that feigns a faux concern for consumers being “confused” by plant based vegan meats being called meats, “beef”, or other descriptions that yet another Republican Senator thinks should be reserved for rotting animal corpses only.
Senator Deb Fischer who just by coincidence is also a cattle rancher put forth the bill in the Nebraska Senate called the “Real MEAT Act”. As with the recently shot down by a federal court Arkansas bill that targeted Tofurky and other meat alternative companies this bill seeks to place new labeling requirements on plant based meat products.
“I think we’re seeing a number of fake food fads that are going on and we want to make sure that consumers know what they’re buying,” said Fischer. “When you look at a lot of the plant-based meals that are being put out there, they’re trying to piggyback on really, really good nutritious, safe beef.”
Senator Fischer said she had “big concerns” on how vegan meats would hurt her states livestock and ranching industries.
“Ranching and the production of livestock, to provide safe beef across this country, is an economic engine in the state of Nebraska,” said Fischer. “It produces over a $13 billion economic impact on the state.”
Just like the aforementioned Arkansas bill and others that have had varying levels of success around the country this bill wants to define “beef” as only derived from cow corpses and they want to make it mandatory that plant based meat manufacturers place the word “imitation” in their wording including on packaging. It goes so far as to say the word imitation must be “uniform (in) size and prominence” along with a statement that the product contains no meat.
“If it’s imitation, it should be labeled imitation. If it’s real beef, there’s one ingredient — and that’s beef. If it’s an imitation, like Beyond [Meat] burgers or the Impossible burgers, they have over 20 ingredients,” said Fischer “It shouldn’t be confused with real beef.”
Impossible Foods responded with:
“Impossible Foods stands for truth and transparency. That’s why our products are clearly labeled ‘made from plants, There is no evidence of consumer confusion. In fact, our extraordinary sales growth is due precisely to the fact that consumers are seeking and buying plant-based ingredients at record levels.”
With the plant based vegan market growing so quickly the animal ag industry and in turn politicians hearing from their lobbyists are taking notice. Plant based meat is estimated at 12.1 billion for 2019 and will be a 140 billion dollar a year industry by 2030 as animal ag collapses so they are right to be so concerned.
“Real beef has to go through a very rigorous labeling and inspection process. That’s not true with this product that we’re seeing now in grocery stores,” Fischer said.
Someone should inform Senator Fischer of the new USDA guidelines thanks to the Trump administration that removes USDA inspectors and line speeds allowing slaughterhouses to inspect themselves and set their own line speed.
The (PBFA) Plant-Based Foods Association called the bill an “unprecedented power grab.”A few weeks ago the PBFA released its voluntary labeling guidelines for the industry. The standards allow for references to animal meat (i.e.: hamburger or chicken) with qualifiers like “plant-based,” “vegan,” “veggie,” “made from plants,” etc.
Fischer of course says that the word “imitation” will stop any confusion for consumers.
“A lot of times we’re seeing some false advertising, I think, and really some smear campaigns. You have the plant based products… they look like beef. They have the appearance and beef,” she said.
The same arguments have played out with law makers and the dairy industry as the dying business tries to fight back against plant based milks and cheeses being allowed to call themselves milk. The Senators and others are worried that the flesh industry will suffer the same fate as the dairy industry.
“It’s a road that we shouldn’t be going down. You know, almonds don’t produce milk. That’s a false label, but that’s caught on now and that’s in the grocery stores all the time. Obviously soy does not produce milk — that’s plant-based. It should be labeled that way,” said Fischer. “It’s for consumers’ education, for their choice.”