Canadian cattle producers are calling out a popular brand of veggie burgers for advertising its products as “plant-based meat,” saying that the term is inaccurate and breaks federal rules.
The Quebec Cattle Producers Federation filed a complaint with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency against California-based company Beyond Meat. The crux of the complaint: the use of the term “plant-based meat” in recent tweets and promotional material.
"It can be plant-based protein, but don't say plant-based meat,” Quebec cattle farmer and vice-president of the Quebec Cattle Producers Federation Kirk Jackson told The Canadian Press. "Meat has its own definition, and we want to hold up that integrity for the product we produce."
Beyond Meat entered the Canadian grocery market this spring in anticipation of summer barbecue season, and the burgers are already sold at A&W Canada restaurants. The burgers proved to be so popular that A&W said it sold out and struggled to meet the intense demand. Tim Hortons announced earlier this week that it is testing three Beyond Meat breakfast sandwiches and could soon roll out the meatless options across the country.
In its complaint, the Quebec group points out that the regulatory definition of meat product is “the carcass of a food animal, the blood of a food animal, or a product or by-product of its carcass.”
A spokesperson for the group also cited federal rules that food advertising cannot be “false, misleading or deceptive or … likely to create an erroneous impression regarding its character, value, quantity, composition, merit or safety.”
The Canadian Cattleman’s Association, of which the Quebec group is a member, shares the same concerns about accurate labelling.
“We’re not saying what they should be called. I think what we’re saying is what they shouldn’t be called. I think we can leave that to them to sort that out,” Fawn Jackson, senior manager of government and international relations with the Canadian Cattleman’s Association, told CTVNews.ca.
“I think that having rules in Canada around labelling and marketing and advertising around food are there for very good reasons, and everybody needs to follow them.”
In a statement to CTV News, Beyond Meat said it takes regulatory compliance “very seriously” and is “reviewing internally to ensure we comply with Canadian regulations.”
A spokesperson from the CFIA refused to comment on the particular complaint, but said that all food sold in Canada must meet federal standards outlined in the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations.
“When assessing a product's compliance, CFIA reviews all information on food labels or in advertisements – including words, images, vignettes and logos – as they will contribute to the overall impression created by that product to determine whether a consumer would be misled,” the spokesperson said.
The CFIA already has clear rules around veggie burgers that resemble meat. Simulated meat products must clearly display the phrase “contains no meat” or “contains no poultry” on the front of packaging, which cannot have any images that suggest the product contains meat.
Beyond Meat bills the “Beyond Burger” as “the world’s first plant-based burger that looks, cooks and satisfies like beef without gluten, soy or GMOs.” Each burger contains 20 grams of protein and a long list of ingredients, including pea protein isolate, beet juice extract, potato starch, refined coconut oil and expeller-pressed canola oil.
With files from The Canadian Press