Why the word “meat” is so controversial

Why the word “meat” is so controversial

We can all agree this is meat. Right? And this is “meat,” a plant-based protein
alternative that we usually just call fake meat. But a recent court case filed in Missouri
could determine that the term “fake meat” isn’t descriptive enough for products like
veggie burgers. The state and the meat industry
claim that the current packaging and placement for tofu dogs, chick’n patties, and veggie
burgers mislead customers. To atone for these sins going forward, says
a new law, the makers of fake meat who don’t specify clearly enough that there’s nothing
from an animal in their products should go to jail for a year. Plant protein proponents claim this is
just industry protectionism. That’s the thrust of their suit against this new law, which cites the First Amendment. They don’t think anyone is actually being
misled or harmed by their products. But the meat industry isn’t worried about
competition, it’s worried about being eliminated. So how did we get to the point where fake
meat and meat ended up in court together? The modern history of meat substitutes started
pretty inoffensively. In the ‘80s, a pile of rice, mushroom, and
onions smashed into a disc was charmingly dubbed “the Gardenburger.” A decade later, Turtle Island Food Company
debuted its first “holiday roast,” which is what we know today as Tofurky. And there have been all kinds of competitors
and imitators over the decades. But fake meat was always seen as this kind
of a consolation prize for vegans and vegetarians. You found it in the natural foods aisle next
to the tofu and sauerkraut. Meat producers never saw it as a threat. No one ever really said, “Wow, this mushed
up pea protein tastes just like beef!” That is, until some people a few years ago
started to say, “Wow, we should really make this mushed up pea protein taste more like
beef!” Today, meat-free meat is starting to look
and taste more and more like animal products. Tofu roast has started to look more like bratwurst. “Soyrizo” is a thing. You can even buy vegan bacon! The key ingredient that gives the Impossible
Burger its meaty taste is “heme,” a molecule found in blood. The secret ingredient in the conflict between
meat and fake meat isn’t heme or any other chemical. It’s money. Meat alternatives recently have been way more
appetizing to investors. Rates of vegetarianism and veganism have held
pretty much steady since 1999. Today, omnivores are just eating more plant-based
meat alternatives. “I think we’re going through the mainstreaming
of plant-based diets right now. No matter where you live, if Walmart is your only grocery story, you now have plant-based eating options.” And since the same people who are eating beef burgers are starting to also eat their pea-mush counterparts, the meat lobby is starting to
feel its dominance in protein market is fleeting. And so, we find ourselves in the middle of
a war on plant-based alternatives, which are becoming increasingly popular. In February, the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association
filed a petition to the USDA to try to stop fake meat vendors from selling their products
as meat. The fight even extends to other aisles of
the grocery store. In 2017, Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin
introduced the DAIRY PRIDE bill to protect dairy producers against plant-based competition. Now there’s an ongoing debate at the FDA
over whether almond milk can rightfully call itself milk. Even the vegan product “Just Mayo” has
come under FDA fire because it doesn’t meet their definition of mayonnaise. Meat has always been controversial. The fact that fake meat has all its own drama is just a sign that it’s even closer to the real deal.

6 thoughts on “Why the word “meat” is so controversial

  1. Beyond burger 🍔
    Impossible Burger 🍔
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