By Jess Warren
The meat industry is under attack; vegetarians, vegans and flexitarians are contributing to a decline in demand for meat and animal based products, as meat alternatives are forecast to grow 8.4% in the next two years. Within recent months, France have passed an amendment on its Agriculture Bill which prohibits any product that is largely based on non-animal ingredients from being labelled like a traditional animal product.
What this means is that any non-meat products which carry names such as ‘bean burger’, ‘soy sausage’ or ‘chicken-flavoured pieces’ can no longer be used, due to the argument that consumers might be misled into believing the products were real meat. This also extends to using dairy product names for non-dairy products, such as ‘soy yogurt’ or ‘vegan cheese’.
Quite frankly, I think this change in legislation is ridiculous. Surely, the general public aren’t small-brained enough to think they’re buying meat. Vegetarian alternatives have copious labels all-over the packaging stating the ingredients and that they’re meat-free. After all, they’re attracting their own audience, and have to have adequate labelling to hook their veggie market. How is it then, that confusion is the key reason this legislation change has come underway in France. You’d be foolish to think this was the real reason.
Instead, this has been done to protect the meat industry, which is in growing competition with the meat alternatives, which in the UK currently take £250-300 million annually. This is also a met industry that acts as the biggest contributor to climate change, not to mention the cruelty of small pens and overcrowding in farms. Whilst this is not the case for all styles of farming, the fact remains that this change in legislation supports the profiteering from animal deaths, and disregards the growth that can be harnessed within the meat-alternative industry.
Within this battle over semantics, there seems to be a lack of alternative names for these products. I would argue that meat alternatives gain a form of identity when they’re paired with descriptive terms such as ‘burger’, ‘rashers’, ‘smoked’ and ‘succulent’. Whilst previously used for meat products, these words help set an expectation for the buyer about the way the product will taste, smell and feel. These words are not inherently meat-based. You don’t farm a burger or a sausage, you farm a cow and pig. Who’s to say that they can’t be used to describe the style of product. You can buy various varieties of burgers in supermarkets; beef, venison, lamb, chicken. If the term ‘burger’ is only being used to describe a disk-like formation of food, there is no reason that it can’t include bean, falafel, sweet potato, soy and micro-protein burgers. In this battle of semantics, we’re failing to recognise the need for food to be called something! Else all burgers should be named ‘beef-disk’. Somehow that sounds much less appetising.
With the meat-alternative industry flourishing as more people turn to a more plant-based diet for health, environmental, animal rights or dietary reasons, why are the French government trying to damage their growing industries? Surely, any growing industry should be fostered as opposed to stamped out, the economic gains alone are worthy of keeping “meat-based” names on these products. Let’s stop fighting over semantics, you’ll only anger the vegans even more!