If a beef burger is made from plants — should it be allowed to use the term beef?
- A Senate inquiry into the definition of meat has attracted a wide range of submissions
- The ACCC says plant-based meats are “unlikely to mislead an ordinary consumer”
- The NT Cattlemen’s Association says alternative meat products are designed to be misleading and deceptive
Submissions closed on Friday for the Senate Inquiry into the Definitions of Meat and other animal products, and it has attracted a range of views.
A submission from Australia’s competition regulator (ACCC) said it had never found evidence of misleading claims by alternative meat products, and that plant-based meats were “unlikely to mislead an ordinary consumer.”
ACCC deputy chair Mick Keogh said under current laws the whole context of a product and labelling was taken into account.
“So it’s not just whether or not [the label] has got a cow or a sheep on it, it’s the relative size of the text and any qualifications to the text,” he told ABC Rural.
Mr Keogh said most of the complaints the regulator had received were from meat industry representative bodies.
“They considered the labelling was too close or was misleading or misrepresenting what the product was.
“But the very fact that they’d been able to identify them and noted them, stands counter to their argument,” he said.
Nationals senator Susan McDonald, who is facilitating the inquiry with the rural and regional affairs and transport committee, said she had heard a different story to the ACCC.
“I have been flooded with people who have contacted me to say they have bought a product that they didn’t intend to’,” Ms McDonald said.
Senator McDonald said she was going to ask the ACCC for more information about the complaints it had received when the inquiry has its hearings.
What do you call it?
The Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association was not impressed with the ACCC’s submission and did not mince its words when asked what it wants to tell the Senate inquiry.
“I just think it’s the peak of disrespect to Australia’s beef producers and I can’t believe the ACCC’s position on this is: ‘There’s no issue here’.”
Mr Evans said his members were frustrated that alternative meat companies used terms like beef on their products, while at the same time pushed falsehoods about the beef industry’s environmental credentials.
“These products are designed to be misleading and deceptive and I think it’s an indictment on the ACCC that they’ve chosen not to take these complaints to the courts.”
What’s at ‘steak’ for Impossible Foods?
The Californian-based Impossible Foods has also made a submission to the inquiry, saying it plans to enter the Australian market “in the near future”.
“Our entire reason for existence is to make delicious food from plants that replicate the taste, texture, and aroma of meat from animals, and we want consumers to know it,” it said.
Impossible Foods said there was no evidence that consumers were confused by what “plant-based meat” meant.
“If we were prohibited from using common food terms consumers understand, consumers will have a more difficult time understanding how to prepare our products when they take them home,” it said.
“[For example], ‘pork’ describes a specific sensory experience, and if we were to rename Impossible Pork Made from Plants to ‘Impossible White Protein Made From Plants’, consumers would wonder if it will taste like pork, chicken, turkey, etc.”
The Senate committee is expected to hand down its final report in February 2022.