Lab-grown and plant-based burgers have continued to garner attention from consumers, food service companies and investors, but the beef industry has made it clear that it plans to protect its territory in the marketplace.
At the 2018 Cattle Industry Convention & National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn. (NCBA) Trade Show, members passed official policy designed to protect consumers and the beef industry from “fake meat” and misleading labels. The resolution will inform advocacy efforts as NCBA ramps up the fight against imitation meat and “franken-foods” inside the Beltway.
Recognizing that many products are being falsely marketed as equivalent or substitutes for beef, the resolution notes that NCBA opposes "alternative proteins being permitted to use nomenclature associated with protein sourced from livestock production."
It further states that NCBA supports "the definition of beef to only include products derived from actual livestock raised by cattle farmers and ranchers and harvested for human consumption."
As for what this means in terms of action, NCBA said it will be waging a campaign on two fronts. The first part will be ensuring that product labels accurately describe the product and do not criticize beef, and the second part will be working with the federal government to define clear regulatory jurisdiction over new products.
In a separate effort, on Feb. 9, the U.S. Cattlemen’s Assn. (USCA) submitted a petition for rule-making to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS) requesting that the agency establish accurate beef labeling requirements to better inform consumers of the difference between beef products derived from cattle and those created in a laboratory.
Following recent investment interest by major U.S. and international companies, USCA’s membership initiated the effort to clearly label and identify alternative “beef” products that are not derived from cattle. These alternative products include synthetic product that is made from plant and/or insects and lab-grown product derived from animal cells in a petri dish.
“Accurate labeling of U.S. beef products has always been a number-one priority" for the association, USCA president Kenny Graner said following the submission. “Our members brought forth their concern with the labeling of products as ‘meat’ that are not, in fact, derived from bovine animals, and USCA leadership and staff moved ahead with this petition to address that concern.”
He continued, “Consumers depend upon the USDA FSIS to ensure that the products they purchase at the grocery store match their label descriptions. We look forward to working with the agency to rectify the misleading labeling of 'beef' products that are made with plant or insect protein or grown in a petri dish. U.S. cattle producers take pride in developing the highest-quality and safest beef in the world, and labels must clearly distinguish that difference."
In a call Wednesday, USCA said it plans to collaborate with other producer groups on the issue to raise awareness and move the labeling initiative forward.
“The bottom line is we can’t sit back much longer,” USCA senior policy advisor Jess Peterson said. “The industry has to come together; we need a definition. To have no action is unacceptable.”