In a post for the Toronto Star as part of a wider feature on the topic, CMC president Chris White explained why plant-based foods shouldn’t be using traditional meat terms for their products.
“The old saying goes, ‘Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness’. After all, most imitations fail to live up to the high quality of the original and when it comes to nomenclature, using terminology that suggests the original and imitation are the same will only serve to confuse consumers.”
This follows a complaint made by the Quebec Cattle Producers Federation, which was backed by the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency about the use of meat terms when promoting plant-based products.
Citing Canadian food regulations, White said: “Consumers must not be misled as to the true nature of these simulated meat and simulated poultry products.
“Therefore, the complete common name ‘Simulated (naming the meat or poultry)’ must appear on labels and in advertisements for all simulated meat and poultry products.” These clear rules aimed at avoiding consumer confusion should exclude any plant-based product from calling itself meat.”
White did express understanding as to why plant-based foods would want to use this terminology. “A new wave of plant-based companies are hoping to change that dynamic and it makes sense why they aim to use meat terminology: meat is beloved in Canada and around the world. Meat was a prime contributor to the development of the human brain as we evolved, and has been nourishing us for millennia. As wealth increases in developing countries, adding meat to the diet is one of the first steps people take.
“For marketers seeking to make a splash, naming their product after something so ingrained and beloved is a simple way to try to latch on to that product’s popularity, but it shouldn’t involve violating consumer expectation and long-standing government regulations.”
He also moved to defend the meat industry against environmental harm claims. “Today, we’re able to produce more meat using fewer animals, water, land and other resources than ever before. It’s a true industry success story that will continue to improve as the industry seeks to improve its environmental footprint.
“There have been many claims made about the environmental impact of plant-based products, with little science to back those up, so it’s hard to make a true comparison. It is unclear if the plant-based products will be able to maintain what they claim is a limited environmental impact as they work to scale up production.”