The truth is plant-based or alternative protein products calling themselves meat, are still not meat. Some are advertising their products as having whole muscle texture and other meat-like qualities.
For beef, lamb, pork, poultry and other meat producers, the good news is these “alt-meat companies,” as they like to be called, have seen a decrease in capital raised by 42 percent in 2022 compared to 2021.
The bad news is the alternative protein movement is still moving forward as fast as they can with more products, research and promotion. And, the government is helping them.
During a recent panel discussion at a Future Food Tech Alternative Proteins Conference, Joshua Ayers, a senior program analyst with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), said the path is pretty straight forward.
“We’ve spent the past two or three years building up the regulatory framework,” he stated. “The big takeaway moving forward is we consider these products to be meat and poultry products, and we regulate them much the same way as we regulate any other meat and poultry product. This applies to imported cultivated meat as well.”
Ayers said the international equivalency process will be the same for both cultivated and conventional products.
There is a big push to come up with alternative seafood products as well to satisfy some conservation and animal rights groups.
While there are members of Congress working to pass legislation which doesn’t allow these alternative protein products to be labeled as meat or seafood, the process can’t move fast enough.
The dairy industry was hit with a lot of alternative milk products years ago, and now look at the alternative products in the milk case at the grocery store labeled as milk.
Personally, I don’t care if all of these alternative products are out on the shelves, they do have a right to be there, but I don’t think they should be called meat or milk products. Meat, seafood and milk producers can compete easily with these alternative products as long as they are not labeled the same.
We are starting to see some alternative meat products in high-end restaurants lately. I have heard of alternative steaks, mainly filet mignon, in some restaurants for close to the price of real steaks. And, I have heard of some products advertised as steaks selling at cheaper prices, which turned out to be plant-based or cultivated.
I’ve have also read research from a number of universities around the nation which are researching alt-proteins and getting a lot of money to do so. Remember, there are numerous wealthy people backing the alternative protein movement and buying out farmland.
Other countries, such as Israel, China and Brazil, are establishing markets for alt-proteins as well. For most people in the world, eating meat is a choice, but for some 2.7 billion people of Jewish, Muslim or Hindu faith, dietary laws are central and dictated by their faith.
At the moment, many of these individuals are waiting for their religious leaders to provide guidance on the issue. How these faiths deal with the issue, especially with cultivated proteins and not so much with plant-based proteins, will be interesting.
As meat producers, we need to join the fight and protect our meat and milk labeling.
Dennis Sun is the publisher of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, a weekly agriculture newspaper available online and in print. To subscribe, visit wylr.net.