Meat producers have launched an aggressive marketing campaign claiming that the new plant-based meat alternatives are “ultra-processed imitations” that are similar to dog food. The firm implication is that such products are therefore unhealthy.
A full-page advertisement in The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Examiner calls attention to the chemical ingredients used in various meat alternatives. The ad states that the very same chemicals are also used in paint, e-cigarettes, laxatives and slug pesticide. The campaign is being driven by a PR firm, the Center for Consumer Freedom.
Another campaign directs visitors to a website comparing plant-based meat to dog food.
The PR outfit’s managing director Will Coggin wrote an opinion piece in November in USA Today which linked ultra-processed foods to weight gain. It appears that those studies did not include plant-based meats in them, and the definition of what exactly constitutes “ultra-processed” foods remains somewhat unclear.
The anti-vegan meat campaign does, of course, beg the question: what exactly is in the processed meat that we consume? That, it is submitted, is quite another rabbit hole.
Impossible Foods has said that this campaign is “misleading and fear-mongering”.
So the meat industry is fighting back against the tsunami of PR promoting the values of significantly cutting back on meat consumption and promoting the new meat substitutes such as those manufactured by Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger. These companies have invested heavily in their R&D to not only make their products look and taste like meat, but also to give the impression of bleeding like meat too.
Opposing reactions to the success of the plant-based meat movement
The meat industry seems to be unsure of how to react to the emergence of the burgeoning alternative meat market. Until now there have been signs that it has accepted the reality that the demand for meat is dropping. Many meat producers have invested in and begun promoting their own plant-based meat alternatives.
There is a growing awareness of the health, animal and environmental consequences of traditional farming that has been driving these changes in the board room.
Smithfield Foods, the world’s biggest pork producer, recently announced that it was taking a new direction. The subsidiary of China’s WH Group, recently launched Pure Farmland, a meat-free range. The products are designed to mimic the “bleeding” sensation that has been developed by the new alternative meat companies. What’s more, the Pure Farmland range combines with plant-based dairy products as well.
Other leading meat producers such as Tyson Foods and Perdue Farms have also launched into the plant-based meat market. Nestlé has an active vegan range and that side of its business recently signed a sponsorship deal with Manchester City FC. Vivera Foods from the Netherlands recently announced that it was divesting itself of its meat division to focus on vegan food.
So this negative campaign from the meat industry is a different strategy. It is also a sure sign that the industry is rattled. It clearly shows that the new vegan “fake meat” industry is in the process of fundamentally disrupting the traditional meat market.
Impossible Foods’ mission is not to convince consumers that the Impossible Burger is the most nutritious food they can eat. The company merely wish to persuade people who want a “cow burger” to eat an Impossible Burger in its place.
“The niche that this fills is not the same niche that a kale salad fills,” said Brown. “If you’re hungry for a burger and you want something that’s better for you and better for the planet that delivers everything you want from a burger, then this is a great product. But if you’re hungry for a salad, eat a salad.”