The vegan food industry is under renewed pressure from the meat and dairy industry to stop using animal product derived names such ‘steak’, ‘fillet’, ‘sausage’, ‘cheese’ and ‘milk’.
The latest criticism on the use of traditional food terminology by vegan food brands has come from US livestock producers, and on this occasion is directed at what it calls the ‘fake meat’ industry – the producers of lab-created, alternative protein products.
US trade group United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) is currently petitioning the US Department of Agriculture in a bid to prevent plant-based and lab-created products from being able to use he term ‘beef’ and ‘meat’. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) is also campaigning on the issue.
NCBA’s senior vice president of government affairs, Colin Woodall, told US media that his members were increasingly concerned about “misleading names and labels” on lab-created or plant-based products. “If people want to eat smashed-up peas as a hamburger patty, we have no problem with that at all. But the fact is, if they want to use our nomenclature that we’ve had as an industry, that’s wrong.”
America’s livestock producers will be aware of a recent rulings and votes in Europe on the issue of protected nomenclature. In April, French MPs voted for a ban of terms such as ‘vegetarian sausage’, ‘vegan bacon’ and soya ‘steaks’. The ban will come into force via an amendment to France’s agriculture bill and will also apply to vegan and vegetarian products marketed as dairy alternatives. In June last year, The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that plant-based foods using soya and tofu cannot use dairy-style terms such as ‘milk’, ‘butter’ and ‘cheese’. The ECJ ruling was made in relation to a case referred to it by a German court involving a German producer and distributor of vegetarian and vegan foods – TofuTown. The company promotes and distributes plant-based products with names such as ‘Soyatoo Tofu butter’, ‘Plant cheese’, and ‘Veggie Cheese’.
“A patty made from water, wheat, potato and soy protein powders that’s flavoured with edible glue? It doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it?”
Writing recently in the UK food industry weekly The Grocer, the food writer and campaigner (and author of Swallow This) Joanna Blythman, said that the vegan food industry very deliberately uses the “omnivore lexicon” because it would “otherwise struggle to find enticing descriptions”. Commenting on one particularly well promoted vegan burger product, she said: “Remove the burger word and what are you left with? A patty made from water, wheat, potato and soy protein powders that’s flavoured with edible glue? It doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it?”
Photo: A product from leading US plant-based brand Beyond Meat, via Instagram.