Cattle Ranchers Fighting Back Against Fake Meat

Businesses such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have combined science with ingredients that are plant-based to create what are being called “fake meat” burgers as well as other products that taste similar to real meat.

Now, the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association has decided to take a stance against this new “fake meat” that is being produced. The association recently made its first big move in what could become a long battle with plant-based foods. In early February, the association submitted a petition of 15 pages with the United States Department of Agriculture that calls for an official definition for “beef” and in broader terms, “meat.”

The associations’ outreach and policy director Lia Biondo says that while currently the alternative protein sources do not represent a direct threat to the U.S. beef industry, the association sees improper labeling of the products as being misleading, and the goal is to head of that problem prior to it becoming a bigger issue.

Not everyone agrees with that. The Beyond Meat CEO and founder Ethan Brown said that consumers already are aware what it is they are looking for while browsing the aisles of a grocery store. However, he does not necessarily believe that the petition is bad.

Brown said he believes the labeling could actually help his industry more than hurt it, because it would begin a national dialogue over what is meat, and if the meat’s origin really matters to consumers.

Cattle ranchers contend that if a particular product is to be labeled as “beef,” then it should come from cattle, and that would mean products such as Tofurky and veggies burger would not qualify.

While the foods are commonly called “fake meat,” there is much more to today’s meatless market than just that. Sustainable food supply advocate The Good Food Institute breaks this talk into two categories clean meat on one side and plant-based on the other.

Clean meat is meat that is grown inside a lab from just animal stem cells. That meat is not available yet, but is being developed. Meat that is plant-based is any and all that mimics traditional meat, yet it made almost in its entirety with plant ingredients.

For instance, Beyond Meat produces plant-based proteins that manufacturers different food products in its factory without animals. The Beyond Burger is very meat-like and can even be purchased on supermarket shelves.