Alliance pushes back against alternative protein's 'clean meat' claims
Andy Hanacek, editor-in-chief: Kay, thanks so much for joining me here at IPPE to talk a little bit about some of the things the Animal Agriculture Alliance is doing with its members and in the industry.
One of the first things I wanted to talk about was this whole “clean meat” movement, as they say. The Ag Alliance has a real problem with that term. Tell me why and tell me what you’re telling processors that they should be doing about it.
Kay Johnson Smith, president & CEO, Animal Agriculture Alliance: Sure, well, I think the first thing, the Animal Ag Alliance supports consumer choice, and so we are all about providing products that consumers want and that they are actually interested in. But what we do have a term with is that term “clean meat.” This is a term coined by activists who are animal rights activists, they are trying to find alternatives to stop people from eating meat, milk, and eggs.
And so this cultured meat or lab-grown meat is an alternative that they are really pushing, and marketing, and they know that the consumer is kind of “ick-ed” out by the fact of cultured meat or meat grown in a lab. So they’ve come up with this term “clean meat” as a way to market it, and the biggest concern is that it implies real meat is somehow dirty or not clean.
So it’s very frustrating, and I think from an industry standpoint, we need to push back on that. Not use that term ourselves, and when we’re asked about it, always challenge the fact that it’s called “clean meat,” because again, it gives a false impression about the real meat industry.
Hanacek: So that’s the lab-grown cultured side. The plant-based side, I tried the Beyond Burger and I’ve told folks that it won’t replace regular beef burgers for me, but it’s pretty tasty for what it’s worth, and it’s a niche market that I think processors at least need to be aware of.
What are you telling your members, and processors in the industry about the plant-based side, that maybe isn’t using the “clean meat” term, but is still coming after the meat industry, as a whole?
Johnson Smith: Absolutely. And again, there’s a lot of support by activist organizations that, again, they’re looking for any way that they can to drag people away from eating meat or any protein that comes from animals. And again, we’re about consumer choice, so we see plant-based protein as an “and” proposition instead of an “or” proposition. We know that we’re going to need to increase the amount of protein that we provide to the public.
In the next 20 to 30 years, it’s going to have to double, so we see plant-based protein as … an addition to real protein that comes from animals. So we’re not afraid of it. Again, it provides other choices for people who are looking for alternatives or maybe just something different once in a while. But again, we see it as an “and” instead of an “or.”
Hanacek: Well, we were talking off-camera briefly about the sustainability piece, right. That’s kind of the thing they’re pushing. But you were saying that there’s no proof yet that plant-based is any better than, or worse than animal protein.
Johnson Smith: Exactly. Well, with the lab-grown meat and the plant-based meat, the claims are that they’re going to be better for the environment. But that’s really an unknown. They’re produced at such a small scale. It’s so expensive right now. The consumer cannot afford it. While they’re saying that in the next two to three years, it’s going to become more affordable, we’ll see.
But at this point, we have no idea what the impact on the environment or sustainability will be when you’re producing in mass scale. And if there is a mass scale. We’ll see if there’s even a demand that calls for it to be produced at a mass scale. But if it is, I think that’s something we really need to pay attention to, and take a look at, to make sure that it isn’t causing more impact on the environment. Because again, it’s one of their marketing claims, but right now, that’s all it is.
Hanacek: Kay, thanks so much for talking about “clean meat” with us and we’ll talk about a couple other things in another Q&A.
Johnson Smith: OK. Have a great show.