Tofurky did not keep cattle users awake at night.
For decades, veggie burgers were the great offering for vegans on the backyard barbecue, and Tofurky was the fall Thanksgiving party for meat-free loved ones in our lives.
But as plant-based meat goes from an afterthought to an economic juggernaut that aims to change how people eat, the opposition has suddenly woken up: Many of the country's 800,000 beef users have declared war on newcomers Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, which uses technology to create products that closely match the taste and texture of meat, and now "first generation" veggie burgers and similar products are caught in crossfire.
In 2019, officials in nearly 30 states have proposed bills to ban companies from using words like meat, burger, sausage, jerk or hot dog, unless the product came from an animal born, bred and slaughtered in a traditional manner. Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma and Wyoming have already passed such laws. In Missouri, the first state where the ban went into effect, offenders are being fined $ 1,000 and as much as a year in prison. Mississippi's new law is sweeping: "Any food product containing cellular animal tissue or plant-based or insect-based food should not be labeled meat or as a meat product."
The states, in most cases supported by cat men's associations, claim consumer confusion as the driving force for the laws. The latest offerings, they say, cross a line when they make unjustified health claims (many have long lists of processed ingredients and contain a lot of sodium) and when the packaging is unclear.
"Beyond Meat Beefy Crumbles has a picture of a cow on the front and says 'plant-based' in very small letters at the bottom," said Mike Deering, a cattle and executive vice president of the Missouri Cattlemen's Association. " a dad and going through the grocery store before one of my boys has a breakup, and [if] I'll pick up the package that says beef with a picture of a cow on it, I'll buy it. "
This is not a David- The Cattle Associations have tremendous political power, and several of the top veggie brands Morningstar Farms and Boca are owned by food giants such as Kellogg and Kraft Heinz, and key meat producers – Tyson Foods and Smithfield Foods, for example – do not take sides , and rely on traditional meat ranchers, but also invest heavily in these new alternatives they believe consumers increasingly want.
The future of ranching faces a major threat if plant-based meat, which is believed to be much better for the environment, is a mainstay of the American diet.
Traditional animal farming looks at the experience of the dairy industry, which caused sales of cow's milk to decline by $ 1.1 billion last year, increased much of that business in alternative milk such as almond and oats. And as the stock price of Beyond Meat, which went public this year, has risen, some of America's largest retailers and restaurants have come on board with plant-based alternatives.
In September, Impossible Burgers rolls out to grocery stores. Subway has announced meatless meatballs, Carl's Jr. and sister company Hardee's got on the meatless meat truck, Dunkin's introduced its Beyond Sausage breakfast sandwich and Burger King expanded the reach of Impossible Whopper to all franchisees.
On July 22, Tofurky joined the American Civil Liberties Union, the Good Food Institute (a nonprofit that promotes plant-based meat) and the Animal Legal Defense Fund to file a lawsuit that claims Arkansas's new label, which came into force July 24, breaks the first and fourteenth changes.
"If we lose, there is something wrong with our justice system," said Tofurky chief Jaime Athos. “The first thing that gets out of the way is people are confused. The whole thing [the cattlemen’s associations] can censor speech. "
He said that it is mandatory mediation by the court because the two sides have failed to reach a consensus. If Tofurky loses, plant-based meat will have to be repackaged to reflect approved nomenclature, an expensive attempt by a national company selling to all 50 states. The larger issue, Athos said, should focus on the emerging science of the benefits of a plant-based diet.
"The meat industry chickens come home to roast. Their industry was backed by agricultural subsidies and misrepresented the true nutritional value and necessity of meat in the American diet, ”he said. “We know better. These are not healthy things. "
Despite being drawn into the fight, Athos said he was not muttered by what happened.
"When it comes down to it, we have undertaken a monumental task, and we now have partners to help us achieve these goals," he said. “What a wonderful thing to be able to live your values. What we see with plant-based is the conversation that changes from 'why' to 'why not.' "
There are reasons why Athos may be true. Tofurky has seen double-digit year-on-year growth that is limited only by production capacity, he said.
"There is no doubt that we are paying more attention to the category," said Michele Simon, CEO of the Plant Based Food Association, which advocates for the leading plant-based food companies. “… Having a company like Tofurky makes it easy to talk to Walmart? This was not the case five or ten years ago. "
Morningstar Farms, which has been around for more than 40 years, has shifted from just being in grocery stores to being in restaurants, universities, schools, cafeterias and hospitals, with nearly 25,000 locations and 7,500 new restaurants estimated by 2020.
While parent company Kellogg did not disclose specific sales data, it issued a statement saying that the plant-based wave led by Impossible and Beyond has been beneficial, driving more consumers to meat alternatives. Morningstar has announced that the entire portfolio will be vegan by 2021 (plant-based cheese and eggs will be added to the mix), while Boca, which is owned by Kraft Heinz, went through a major brand update with new recipes and retro-cool packaging updates in 2018.  For Jan Dutkiewicz, a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University who teaches a class a class entitled "Modernity and the Slaughter House," these first- and second-generation plant-based companies create weird bedfellows, with widely differing agendas.
“Tofu and seitan have been around for centuries. These were not on the mainstream radar – the stuff the hippies eat. For Tofurky and Morningstar, customers were more vegan and vegetarian, not mainstream consumers. They did not try to compete with meat on taste, ”he said. “Impossible and Beyond is not an adult of Tofurky. Their goal is to imitate meat as closely as possible. They try to replace meat completely. "
The investment capital involved is also different," Dutkiewicz said, "by magnitude. "
Plant-based products that closely mimic meat are seen as a promising new revenue stream for most large meat and food companies. These giants are starting to relocate as "protein companies."
Earlier this month, Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork producer, announced it would launch a plant protein line under the Pure Farmland brand. Maple Plant-Based Breakfast Patties, Simply Seasoned Plant-Based Protein Starters and six other products will debut in stores this September. Tyson Foods debuts its own meat-free protein line. Perdue has launched mixed meat-and-veg chicken nuggets, tenders and chops. Nestlé rolls out a plant-based line, and Hormel's Applegate has debuted mixed meat-and-mushroom burgers.
The top spot in the National Cattlemen's Beef Association's list of political priorities in 2019 is to have a plant-and cell-based meat regulatory framework, a responsibility that will slip back and forth between the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
According to Deering, some of the hubbub is really related to the expected launch next year with cell-based meat, that is, meat, poultry and seafood products obtained from muscle tissue grown in a laboratory with cells harvested from a live animal. Farmers fear that inadequate labeling will not distinguish between traditional animal breeding and those products that do not yet have a track record of safety and human health.
"We are at the market price, the weather," Deering said. “We represent some of the most resilient people on the planet who can compete any day of the week and twice on Sunday. This is about consumer protection. "
Also earlier this month, the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), a nonprofit that lobbies on behalf of the fast-food, meat, alcohol and tobacco industries, placed advertisements in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post highlighting many of the ingredients in fake bacon and fake sausage, pointing out that many of the plant-based meat options are heavily processed and suggest that this may fly in line with what people think of as "healthy."
"People see veggie burgers on the menu and think it sounds like chopped salad," said Will Coggin, CCF CEO. "Despite what the name makes people believe," plant-based "meat is made in industrial plants, not in gardens. Fake meat companies try to promote a 'health glory' over their products, but consumers should know that Imitation meat is heavily processed and in some cases has more calories and sodium than is the real thing.