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 06 oct 2020 15:06 

Enough with surrealistic meat and dairy denominations

The debate on meat and dairy denominations for plant-based imitations is far more complex than it seems at first glance. If the European Parliament decides in the coming month to condone food denomination loopholes to protect “vegan sausages” or “ vegan burgers”, it will open a Pandora's box that will in the long run impact consumers and livestock farmers alike – a fact that is not well understood in the European assembly. Faced with this situation, the European livestock sector is making a stand and launching the European campaign ceci n’est pas un steak.

Today, a group of European livestock representative organisations are launching a new campaign and issuing a call for mobilization to the whole sector after the European Parliament again reached a stalemate on the CMO Regulation’s provisions regarding meat denominations. MEPs have once again launched the discussion they already had last year, aiming to provide for the legal recognition of names such as “vegan burgers” and “vegan sausages”. MEP Eric Andrieu proposed leaving the critical issue of meat denominations in the hands of the Commission in the form of delegated acts, on the condition that it accepts the recognition of names such as "vegan burgers" and “vegan sausages”. Passing the buck to the Commission like this is unacceptable for farmers and at odds with the initial proposal voted upon last year! The group calls on the Members of the European Parliament to carefully consider the impact and consequences of generalizing such terms, thus promoting misleading and unfair marketing.

Jean-Pierre Fleury, chairman of the Copa and Cogeca working party on beef and veal, commented the launch of the initiative saying “the European livestock sector is not trying to fight this development, we simply call for the work of millions of European farmers and livestock sector workers to be acknowledged and respected. I am not afraid to say that this is an obvious case of cultural hijacking. Certain marketing agencies are using this to deliberately confuse consumers by promoting the view that substituting one product for another has no impact on the nutritional intake. This path is paved with good intentions, but it will open the door for other confusing denominations to emerge in the long term. We are about to create a brave new world where marketing is disconnected from the real nature of products, which is just asking for things to spin out of control!”

The ceci n’est pas un steak communication campaign raises fundamental questions about consumer information, our cultural heritage and the power of modern marketing, which blithely amalgamates big business interests and values.

In the campaign manifesto, the European organisations highlight the fact that when considering vegan products, one tends to forget that European farmers have an interest in producing both plant and animal protein and are not opposed to the production of vegetable protein for vegan products. However, plant-based imitations that tend to copy meat and dairy products’ denominations and characteristics should develop their own approach. The plant-based sector needs to step up its creative effort. Instead of investing in lobbying, these companies should work on new marketing concepts, gaining consumer’s recognition and resolving the plant-based imitation industry’s fundamental paradox. An industry striving to become mainstream should not need to build its reputation by focusing their marketing efforts on existing products and on a fight against them!

The campaign will feature a series of initiatives aiming to raise awareness for the importance of the meat denomination debate which will be organised in the days leading up to the vote.

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