Alicia Kennedy: The decision to allow meat and dairy words to be used on vegetarian food suggests diets are changing for the better
It’s no longer obvious that one’s burger must come from an animal – and this has people in the industrial livestock world scared.
In recent years, both the United States and European Union have seen cases brought by advocates of animal-flesh meat against plant-based meat, which can be made of anything from genetically modified soy protein to oyster mushrooms. What is important here is the resemblance to the animal product; meat industries don’t want vegetarian products to be sold as “vegan burgers” or “vegetarian sausages”.
In 2019 alone, in more than 24 states in the US attempts were made to pass legislation restricting what could be labelled with meat terms. Last month, the European Union decided that meat-related descriptors were fine – though words such as “dairy”, “butter”, “cream imitation”, and “yogurt-style” were not to be used on labels for non-dairy products. These legislative manoeuvres are the last gasps of industrial animal agriculture, fighting for relevance in a food landscape that is shifting toward plant-based diets.
That shift is thanks to the news of livestock’s impact on climate breakdown, since a 2019 UN report said that a shift toward plant-based consumption would be necessary to stem the crisis. The Covid-19 pandemic has also focused minds on the consequences of having a rapacious farm and agriculture industry, which breeds the conditions for disease. There is now a high demand for plant-based meats in Asia, the continent where 44% of the world’s meat is consumed.