Is fake beef meat?

Tuesday, 27 February, 2018

Is fake beef meat?

The US Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) has declared war and fired the first salvo against the labelling of lab-grown or plant- or insect-derived “fake” meats as meat.

It has submitted a petition for rulemaking to the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) requesting the agency to establish accurate beef labelling requirements to better inform consumers on the difference between beef products derived from cattle and those created in a laboratory.

The USCA insists that products from companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods grown in labs or derived from plants or insects do not meet the definition of meat and shouldn’t be labelled as such. Going further, the association claims that calling products “clean meat”, “cultured meat” or “lab grown beef” constitutes unfair or deceptive trade practices.

Beyond Meat’s plant-based burger “looks, cooks and satisfies like beef” and is frequently stocked in the meat aisles in supermarkets. And this product is really only the harbinger of many more meat substitutes being available to consumers.

It is reasonable that product labelling does not confuse consumers. Consumers should be able to instantly understand whether the burgers that they are buying are beef, insect or vegetable and whether they are natural, organic, lab-grown etc. Mind you, the term natural is so fraught with confusion that it is hardly a useable word anymore.

The USCA’s contention is that if a product is labelled “beef”, it needs to come from cattle flesh.

USCA President Kenny Graner said in a statement following the petition, “Consumers depend upon the USDA FSIS to ensure that the products they purchase at the grocery store match their label descriptions. We look forward to working with the [USDA] to rectify the misleading labeling of “beef” products that are made with plant or insect protein or grown in a petri dish.

“US cattle producers take pride in developing the highest quality, and safest, beef in the world, and labels must clearly distinguish that difference.”

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