Imitation may be sincerest form of flattery, as the old saying goes. But imitation may be going too far when it comes to new products trying to horn in on the world’s growing demand for protein.
Alternatives to meat are nothing new; just look through the freezer section at your local supermarket. There are plenty of vegetable-based meat alternatives, such as burgers made from soy or tofu.
Now there’s a big push to brew up meat alternatives in laboratories using animal cells. The lab-developed products, the developers say, cook and taste more like the real thing than the veggie-based meat alternatives. Even some of the big players in the protein industry, like Tyson, have invested in these lab-grown products.
Now, I’m a big believer in consumer choice when it comes to food. It’s great that America’s farmers have stepped up to deliver a dizzying variety of healthy and affordable foods as the country’s food tastes have broadened.
If a subset of consumers is looking for these meat alternatives, that just leaves more for confirmed meat eaters, like me.
But like a lot of livestock groups, I have serious reservations about whether these lab jockeys coming up with meat alternatives should be allowed to market their lab-grown products using the traditional names, such as beef, pork and poultry.
Over the years, livestock raisers have invested a lot of time, sweat and money to improve the products that consumers know as beef, pork and poultry. They have improved animal care, lowered their environmental footprint and improved the quality of the products they raise for consumers. And they have kept meat affordable.
It’s an impressive feat, one that is hard to imitate, no matter what your product is called.