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Ranchers Set To Fight Back Against Vegetarian 'fake Meat'

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    https://www.usatoday.com/story/mone...-back-against-vegetarian-fake-meat/371378002/

    Ranchers set to fight back against vegetarian 'fake meat'
    The Impossible Burger is part of a wave of plant-based burgers that appeals to meat lovers.

    Companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are combining plant-based ingredients and science, rather than animals, to create fake-meat burgers and other products that taste like the real thing.

    Now U.S. Cattlemen's Association is looking to draw a line in the sand.

    The association launched what could be the first salvo in a long battle against plant-based foods. Earlier this month, the association filed a 15-page petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture calling for an official definition for the term "beef," and more broadly, "meat."

    "While at this time alternative protein sources are not a direct threat to the beef industry, we do see improper labeling of these products as misleading," said Lia Biondo, the association's policy and outreach director. "Our goal is to head off the problem before it becomes a larger issue."

    Starting a national dialogue
    Not everyone sees it that way. Ethan Brown, founder and CEO of Beyond Meat, said consumers already know what they're looking for when they're browsing the grocery store aisles. But he doesn't necessarily see the petition as a bad thing.

    "I think it actually could help us more than it could hurt us because it starts the national dialogue around what really is meat, and if the origin of meat really matters to the consumer," said Brown.

    While these foods are commonly dubbed "fake meat," there's a little more to the meat-substitute market than that. The Good Food Institute, which advocates a sustainable food supply, breaks it down into two categories: clean meat and plant-based meat.

    Clean meat refers to "meat" grown in a lab from a small amount of animal stem cells. This kind of meat isn't on the market yet, but it's in development. Plant-based meat is anything that mimics traditional meat but is made mainly using plant ingredients.

    For example, Beyond Meat is a plant-based protein producer that manufactures food products in a factory without using animals. It's Beyond Burger is so "meat-like," it even made its way into the meat aisle of grocery stores.

    And it's not just vegetarians eating the plant-based burgers.

    "From the consumers we see going to the meat case to buy our plant-based burgers where they're sold, we see about 70 percent of those are at least flexitarian, people that have meat in their diet as well as non-meat protein," said Brown.

    Searching for beef alternatives
    Data from HealthFocus International show that 60% of U.S. consumers claim to be reducing their consumption of meat-based products. Of those cutting back, 55% say the change is permanent. So for companies cashing in on the growing plant-based food market, a naming war could make for a rocky relationship with the beef industry.

    "We think that the cattlemen could face their competition head on," said Jessica Almy, policy director at the Good Food Institute. "Or like Tyson and Cargill, they could invest in the future. But rather than do that, they're petitioning the USDA to police the use of certain terms on labels and skew the playing field in the cattlemen's favor."

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