Australians being ‘duped’ by plant-based labelling, study shows

Beef Central, 06/08/2021

In a direct challenge to claims by alternative protein manufacturers that there is no potential for consumers to be confused by plant based products masquerading as meat, a new study of 1000 Australian consumers showed a majority have mistaken at least one plant-based meat product as containing animal meat.

The survey of a nationally representative sample of 1000 Australians conducted by ISO accredited market research agency Pollinate produced a range of findings that contrast strongly with alternative protein industry claims that there is no risk of consumer confusion in labelling of its “fake meat” products, including:

  • 61 percent of those surveyed mistook at least one plant-based product as containing animal meat
  • Confusion is driven by packaging and placement in supermarkets, with 47 percent responding that they had a hard time figuring out whether a product is made of plant-based versus animal meat when looking at where the products are placed in the supermarket
  • 45pc were confused by product packaging and 42pc with how the product was categorised online
  • Half of those surveyed said they found packaging for the products tested in the survey to be confusing
  • 32 percent believe they have already confused plant based meat for animal meat while shopping, and almost two in three think other people could make the same mistake
  • Consumers who are in a rush and those who are ‘older’ are the most likely to make mistakes
  • Animal imagery was the main source of confusion for plant-based meat packaging, followed by packaging that looks just like animal meat, use of small fonts and meat descriptors
  • Around half of consumers expect the product to contain animal meat if meat descriptors or imagery is used
  • Most do not think plant-based meat should be able to use meat descriptors or imagery
  • 73 per cent believe clearer labelling standards need to be introduced.

The survey results were released in a joint statement overnight by a range of meat industry organisations including the Australian Chicken Meat Federation, the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council, the Australian Lot Feeder’s Association, the Australian Meat Industry Council, Cattle Council of Australia, the Goat Industry Council of Australia, the Red Meat Advisory Council, Seafood Industry Australia, and Sheep Producers Australia.

“In an Australian first, the representative bodies for the nation’s meat, poultry and seafood industries have united to call for truth in labelling for plant-based protein products, that misleadingly use meat and seafood terms and imagery in their labelling and advertising, the statement said.

“Australians are being misled by manufactured plant-based protein packaging, and we believe clearer labelling standards must be introduced to address this,” a spokesperson for the group said.

“Concerningly vulnerable Australians are disproportionally impacted by misleading plant-based protein labelling with elderly, those with English as a second language, and low-income consumers more likely to mistake the products.

Source: Pollinate

“With a Senate inquiry underway into how these plant and synthetic proteins can use the term and imagery of meat on their packaging, it’s important we bring this to people’s attention.

“The fact these heavily processed products which are primarily manufactured overseas or made from imported ingredients are allowed to be labelled as Australian meat or seafood is shameful.

“This independent research shows consumers have had enough. They want clearer standards to ensure truth in labelling for plant-based products, and so do we.

“More than half a million Australians collectively work together across the nation’s meat, livestock and seafood industry supply chains to deliver the safest and most nutritious natural proteins to Australian families.”



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  1. David+Lovelock, 09/08/2021

    Unless there has been legislative change my understanding is that it is illegal to sell meat unless it is produced from an animal carcass in a facility approved for that process , not from a vat in a factory .

  2. Scott Golding, 09/08/2021

    Maybe we should be marketing our domestically produced meats as “Plant Based” – isn’t this actually the case, I don’t see anything but “plants” go into my livestock?

  3. Ian McDuie, 09/08/2021

    Simple. Legislate so the all ‘fake’ products must carry the wording “ plant-based meat substitute” on the front label in minimum 20 point type. Heavy fines for non-compliance!

  4. john cooper, 07/08/2021

    It is clear that product that goes to the consumer as meat ,be it from beef sheep pigs goats poultry etc. is recognised as such from its’ labelling and can be trusted as such. “Fake meat” should not be allowed to use the term meat at all, having not come from animals that the consumer understands as the origin of meat.
    Let it be “plant protein” or whatever

  5. Roger Piggott, 07/08/2021

    Neither “meat” nor “animal protein” should be allowed to name or label anything that is not animal protein. The words “meat” and “animal protein” must only be used for animal products unless these words are used with the adjective “artificial” as in “artificial meat” or “artificial animal protein” and the word “artificial” must be given the same prominence as “meat” and “animal protein” on any label or in any advertising.

    • Dick Morgan, 08/08/2021

      Yes – let them use the word “artificial’ to describe their product. This would be an honest description and would certainly allow the potential consumer to decide whether to buy or not.

      I would go one further. I would not allow any image of the animal to appear on the label or the packaging.

  6. Paul+D.+Butler, 06/08/2021

    Very simple…….truth in labeling. Words have meaning and there is no rational reason to allow Lab Slimers to co-opt meat words for their unhealthy products.

  7. Ben, 06/08/2021

    No more Peanut Butter for Dr. Jim.. 🙂

  8. Dr Jim Gibbs, 06/08/2021

    They should not be enabled under Australian federal legislation to call non-animal products meat or milk.

    They should be able to produce and market whatever they wish, but not co-opt food labeling that reasonable consumers understand to be animal derived.

    The sole reason they do label plant-faux-protein-meals as meat is because they know well that consumers understand what meat tastes like and what it represents as a food, and they are leveraging that.

    By this, they appropriate all the centuries of incremental gain that such labeling represents, without any of the cost. Without referencing what they produce to meat, they have no market advantage, and they know it.

    If they believe their own marketing, let them roll it out without the word meat anywhere near their product.

    • Katrina Love, 07/08/2021

      To that end, how about all cows’ milk has “cows’ milk” on the container. Milk can come from mammals or plants; soy milk and coconut milk have been around for centuries, if not millennia.

      Perhaps products that contain animal flesh or body parts (and dairy in the case of calves and spent cows) could have a very clear image (and corresponding words) depicting that animals were killed for this product – that should end any confusion.

      • David Connellan, 08/08/2021

        ‘Milk is being deceitfully used used as a descriptor for products like ‘coconut milk’ and ‘almond milk’ for one very simplistic, lazy reason: it is a white liquid. These manufactured products have nothing to do with secretion of a nutritious food from the mammary glands of mammals. Read the ingredients list on any pack of ‘almond milk’ and it contains 3% almonds. Same for soy milk. So what the hell else is in it, to make up to 100%?
        The real meat and milk industries (both 100% as described) aren’t pushing back, anywhere near hard enough against such deception.
        The words ‘meat’ and ‘milk’ should be protected by law, just as ‘Champagne’ and ‘Parma Ham’ are protected.
        I’ll be making my submission to the inquiry – I encourage others to do so.

        • Dick Morgan, 08/08/2021

          David is right! The dictionary definition of ‘milk’ is: “a whitish fluid secreted by the mammary glands of mature female mammals”.

          He’s right, too, about the use of the words “Champagne” and “Parma Ham” – both descriptions protected at law.

    • David Plumb, 07/08/2021

      Well stated.
      At this time is would also benefit consumer confidence in future to recognise there may also be cell culture products which come from meat but are not meat.

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