Sales of plant-based meat hit $1.5 billion last year and the meat industry is taking notice, pushing lawmakers to pass legislation that could slow down sales.
According to market research firm Euromonitor International, sales of plant-based meat alternatives like Beyond Meat, Tofurky and Impossible Foods increased 22% in 2018 to $1.5 billion.
Recent scientific advances have allowed plant-based meat brands to create products that taste, look and cook almost indistinguishably from the real thing, leading many health-conscious consumers to pivot toward plant-based alternatives.
As a result, plant-based meat companies have seen staggering growth in a short period of time.
Beyond Meat, for example, just launched their flagship Beyond Burger in 2016, and the company is now worth an estimated half-billion dollars, according to CNBC.
Between meat alternatives disrupting the meat industry and lab-grown meat set to launch within the next few years, some in the meat industry seem to be caught off guard.
Asked about lab-grown meat, Mark Dopp, the head of regulatory affairs at the North American Meat Association told New York Times: “About a year and a half ago, this wasn’t on my radar whatsoever.”
“All of a sudden, this is getting closer. This is likely to happen in the near future, and we need to have a regulatory system in place to deal with it.”
Traditional meat producers are now battling to keep plant-based meat alternatives from labeling their products “meat.”
Following a push from the meat lobby, Missouri’s “fake meat” law went into effect in January, the first of its kind banning products that don’t contain animal flesh from marketing their products “meat.”
Over the past few weeks, the meat industry has been able to convince lawmakers in more than a dozen states to introduce similar bills.
One such meat-labeling bill was written by Nebraska Democratic State Senator Carol Blood.
Sen. Blood, who has been vegetarian for many years, said: “I don’t care that it says burger — I care that it says it’s meat.”
“I have this thing that sticks in my craw when people are trying to be deceitful,” she added.
However, critics of this type of legislation say they are not fooling anyone into buying plant-based meat, and these types of laws only hurt consumers.
“Nobody’s intention is to have false or misleading labeling on anything,” said Todd Boyman, CEO of plant-based meat brand Hungry Planet.
“We’ve never ever had a consumer reach out to us and say, ‘We thought this was a ground-up cow or a chicken or a pig.’”
The meat industry wants to have laws enforced before plant-based meat becomes mainstream to avoid losing control over labeling like the dairy industry.
Recently, urged by the dairy industry, US lawmakers sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb requesting plant-based beverage brands be banned from labeling their products “milk.”