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Meat and alternative protein groups respond to senate inquiry into definitions of meat

Beef Central, 17/06/2021

Councils representing the Australian meat industry and manufacturers of alternative protein products say they are looking forward to the launch on the Senate Inquiry into Definitions of Meat and Other Animal Products announced earlier this week.

The Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee is scheduled to complete its inquiry and hand down a report by February 2022.

The Australian Meat Industry Council (AMIC) said it welcomed the announcement in parliament of the inquiry by Queensland Senator Susan McDonald.

“This is in response to the Australian meat industry calling for action on meat category branding terms, such as “meat-free mince”, “sausage made with plants”, and “vegan bacon”,” AMIC said in a statement to media.

AMIC’s statement noted Senator McDonald’s comments that “the inquiry will look into the use by vegan food makers of terms normally reserved for the animal protein industry”, and that “it was up to makers of non-meat products to come up with their own distinct terms instead of trading off long-established names of animal proteins.

“There are intellectual property issues, and in our export legislation we have clear definitions of meat being the product of an animal, but there are gaps domestically,” Senator McDonald said.

“The industry invests hundreds of millions of dollars each year to develop and enhance the intellectual property and benefits of red meat in Australia, and it’s important that these investments are protected.”

“AMIC absolutely welcomes this inquiry, which is being championed by Senator McDonald, and thank her for driving this incredibly important process,” said AMIC CEO, Patrick Hutchinson.

“We are keen to ensure our interests are represented in so far as to ensure that labelling of manufactured plant proteins does not constitute a point of confusion for consumers, and that only genuine meat products are labelled as such.

“Further, we are pleased that the inquiry will review in detail the health implications of heavily processed plant proteins, as well as the long-term social and economic impairments caused by these types of products on businesses, livestock producers and individuals across regional, rural and remote Australia.

“We look forward to participating in the inquiry.”

Cattle Council of Australia

Cattle Council of Australia (CCA) President Markus Rathsmann said Cattle Council welcomed the inquiry and would like to see labelling standards that provide consumers with accurate information.

“Our customers expect beef products to contain beef,” Mr Rathsmann (right) said.

“CCA has no problem with alternative protein products, but they need to be honest about their ingredients.

“Some plant-based protein companies are trying to piggyback off the reputation of Australian beef by causing confusion.

“This inquiry will take a good, hard look at whether it’s fair to call a product something like ‘no beef, beef’ when there’s no beef in it.

“Our industry invests millions of producer levies in the Australian Beef brand ever year, and that brand should be respected.

“It’s illegal to make use of someone else’s trademark and the same should go for highly processed products that try to mimic the experience of eating beef.

“Plant-based proteins should stop using the terms “meat” or “beef” and be honest about what their product is – highly processed and not meat.

“I am pleased the Parliament has heard and responded to the industry’s call for this to be thoroughly examined.

“I would also like to thank Senator Susan McDonald for getting this up, she has been a true friend to the beef industry.”

Alternative Proteins Council

The Alternative Proteins Council (APC) released a statement this morning saying it looks forward to working with the Commonwealth Government and industry stakeholders on the Senate Inquiry into Definitions of Meat and Other Animal Products.

In a statement it said that to ensure the Inquiry is fair and evidence-based, is must avoid mischaracterising this matter as “conventional proteins versus new proteins”, as this suggests that new protein industries will grow at the expense of more conventional industries.

“The success of both industries will be necessary to meet the clear challenge ahead: to feed a world of 10 billion people by 2050 with finite resources.

“There is overwhelming evidence to show that the diversification of global protein supply is necessary and inevitable to meet rising protein demands, according to the world’s top food systems, sustainability and economic development authorities.[i] This opens up new opportunities for the thousands of Australian farmers and regional communities who stand to benefit from the growth of the plant-based protein sector.

“Cropping accounts for more than half (53.2%) of the value of Australia’s agricultural production[ii] – or $35B – which new protein industries will help grow.

“Rising investment in plant proteins also generates opportunities for legume and grain growers, as well as those farmers with mixed livestock and cropping operations. These investments are already bringing jobs to regional Australia but our nation has yet to harness the full potential of these industries.[iii],[iv]

“Globally, demand for meat is projected to rise 73% by 2050,[v] driven largely by the Asia Pacific region, the key destination for Australia’s premium agri-food products. In markets like China and Thailand, demand for plant-based meat products is also projected to rise 200% by 2025.[vi]

“As a net exporter, Australia can capitalise on growth in both sectors as populations, prosperity and protein consumption in our region continue to rise.”

The APC said it was yet to see any evidence which justified the broad concerns regarding plant-based product labelling and looked forward to presenting the Inquiry with evidence to the contrary.

“We agree with the Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation that the current regulations for labelling via the Food Standards Code and Australian Consumer Law are fit-for-purpose. Companies producing plant-based alternatives use terms like ‘sausages’ to describe their product’s format and utility, along with clear qualifiers like ‘plant-based’ to clearly communicate its ingredients; it’s a common-sense and evidence-based approach.

“Plant-based product branding continues to meet labelling requirements, demonstrating that existing frameworks are serving consumers as intended. To restrict the use of commonly understood format terms on plant-based products would instead generate confusion amongst consumers.

“The Inquiry suggests it also intends to review the health implications of consuming plant-based products, including additives. Prior evidence-based nutritional analysis of nearly 100 products in the category, when compared like-for-like with the conventional meat sausages, burgers and bacon to which they are an alternative, has demonstrated plant-based meat products are on average nutritionally comparable or superior. Many of the common food additives used in plant-based products are the exact same additives used to create conventional processed meat products.”

The APC said it believes that there is an urgent need for a national discussion on how the Australian agri-food sector can collectively seize the opportunity presented by new protein sectors.

Australia, as a food exporting powerhouse, can and should leverage existing trade channels and the strength of our premium brand to increase the overall volume and value of our protein exports with new protein categories.

Plant-based meat products alone are projected to generate nearly $3B in domestic consumer sales by 2030 and 6000 full-time jobs, contributing to the government’s industry-led goal of achieving a $100B food and fibre sector by 2030.

It’s time to have an evidence-based conversation about the opportunity emerging protein sectors present to Australian farmers, and the important choice the category presents for consumers.

The APC will provide the Senate Inquiry with the suite of growing evidence for the value of new protein industries to Australia’s agri-food sector and economy to inform the Committee’s deliberations.

The Alternative Proteins Council (APC), founded in March 2021, describes itself as the representative group for Australia’s alternative proteins sector.

“The APC provides a collective voice for the sector, and a platform to discuss shared issues and opportunities. The council works to ensure the voice of the sector remains unified and impactful on key issues. The APC engages at a national level on policy issues, enabling the sector’s shared vision and continuing to serve Australians who enjoy alternative protein products.”

Source: Australian Meat Industry Council, Alternatives Protein Council

Sources from APC statement:

[i] UN Food and Agriculture Organization – World Livestock 2011: Livestock in food security (2011); Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – Special Report: Climate Change and Land; Chapter Five: Food Security (2019); Oxford Martin School – Analysis and valuation of the health and climate change cobenefits of dietary change (2016); World Economic Forum – Meat: The Future A Roadmap for Delivering 21st-Century Protein (2019)

[ii] ABARES Forecast 2020-21: Agricultural commodities: March quarter 2021 – Commodities.  https://www.agriculture.gov.au/abares/research-topics/agricultural-outlook/data#agricultural-commodities

[v] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. World Livestock 2011 – Livestock in food security. [Internet] Rome: FAO. 2011 Dec [cited 14 Mar 2021]. Available from: http://www.fao.org/3/i2373e/i2373e00.htm

[vi]  Plant-based meat alternatives set to thrive in the next five years [Internet]. UK: DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences; 2020 Dec 16 [cited 2021 Feb 18]. Available from: https://www.dupontnutritionandbiosciences.com/news/plant-based-meat-alternatives-set-to-thrive-in-the-next-fiveyears.html

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Comments

  1. Val Dyer, 17/06/2021

    Thank you, Marcus, for presenting the CCA’s initial position.

    APC, in its response, refers to growth in ‘plant based meat’. Well, that is the real issue, isn’t it?
    Nothing wrong with growth in plant based products – competition is good – however it must not use the word meat or its derivatives like beef, pork, chicken, lamb, venison, etc etc.

    Be honest with consumers and not piggyback on the reputation of meat as a healthy, wholesome, nutritious and environmentally friendly source of protein.

    Hope almond milk becomes almond juice, which is more accurate.

    Thanks for your comment, Val. Worth noting is the ingredients list on a container of ‘almond milk’ – almonds typically represent only 2-3pc of the ingredients, by weight. The question that needs to be asked: What is everything else? Editor

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