By Tom Collins
Canadian beef farmers say plant-based burgers now in the beef section of Canadian grocery stores can mislead the public because the word ‘meat’ is used in advertising and promotional material.
California company, Beyond Meat, started selling its “burgers” in Canadian stores in May. Two burger patties sell for $5.99 and can be found in the meat sections at Loblaws. An Ottawa Loblaws meat department employee told Farmers Forum on May 23 that his store sold out of its Beyond Meat products. “There’s been a big demand. People have been going nuts for it.”
Tim Hortons is starting a pilot project for three Beyond Meat breakfast sandwiches and may soon offer other meatless products. A consumer who tried a Beyond Meat “burger” at A&W told Farmers Forum. “I liked it . I didn’t taste a difference.”
“If it takes off, (other food companies) will all be doing it next week,” said Ian Payne, president of the Dundas County Cattlemen’s Association. “That’s just the way the world works.”
Payne, who raises 17 Dexter cattle at Chesterville, said the labels are misleading and farmers are concerned the meatless products will affect beef prices.
“It won’t expand the market; it will steal market share from beef farmers,” he said. “Another product on the market doesn’t help us.”
The Quebec Cattle Producers Federation filed a complaint with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency about California-based Beyond Meat. The beef association argued that the term “plant-based meat” is inaccurate. They say that meat is “the carcass of a food animal, the blood of a food animal, or a product or by-product of its carcass.”
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says that for products that use no meat, companies must use the phrase “contains no meat” or “contains no poultry” on the label. That phrase must be on the label and close to the name of the product and be at least the same size as the product’s name.
The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) says the rules regarding labelling should be respected and is working with international groups for a consistent approach to the labelling of meat products. The CCA says to be labelled as meat, a food product must meet the legal definition of meat.
Although the Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) does not have its own official statement, BFO communications manager LeaAnne Wuermli said the BFO supports the CCA position. The BFO members overwhelmingly passed a motion at its annual general meeting in February asking the BFO to work with the CCA to develop policies around advertisers’ misuse of words and phrases associated with the beef industry.
One of Beyond Meat’s selling points is that it will have a positive impact on climate change, along with a misleading statistic that 51 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock rearing and processing. Critics have pointed out that the carbon footprint of Beyond Meat products would be high as it is manufactured in California and then transported to Ontario.