With Beef Australia behind us for another three years, there are some interesting messages to take away as an industry from speakers from around the world.
Among them is the warnings around fake meat. Senior vice president of government affairs for the US National Cattleman's Beef Association, Colin Woodall, also a speaker at Beef, made two interesting points.
Firstly, that Impossible Burger wants its fake beef plant-based product to be known as beef.
Secondly, that it will likely replace beef in some markets.
For several decades, beef has battled the encroachment of chicken and pork, but could fake meat be what synthetics have been to wool?
Is fake “beef” a synthetic product that is only limited by the access to its raw inputs, can be constantly tweaked and reinvented to possess new properties in a laboratory and not beholden to the vagaries of the seasons?
These guys are by-passing the cow to turn grass into patties, but just because you can stick it between two burger buns doesn’t automatically make it beef.
However, beef is a good product to be associated with. All fake beef needs is some good marketing, and if it’s convenient and easy to cook, then it has a number of bases covered.
Behaviour of purchasing around organics is a good parallel. People will pay more for organic, not because it tastes better (generally it doesn’t), nor because it helps the environment (because that’s debatable too), but because of a belief they’re doing something that fits their ideologues.
Synthetic protein also avoids a lot of the big costs inherent with actual beef production, including the cost of large areas of land, transport, and the need to find a market for the whole carcase.
Precedents that dictate what we are allowed to call certain products are out there, such as restrictions around what wines can be called Champagne, but that hasn’t helped milk stave off substitutes edging in on its market.
So, given Impossible Burger’s fake beef is made from plant proteins, why don’t we start calling it what it really is – a vege burger.
The accepted definition of beef is generally "the flesh of a bull, ox (steer), or cow used for food”. Not a synthesised plant-based protein mass produced in a factory.
Where’s Sam Keckovich when you need him? You know it makes sense!