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Battle of the Proteins: Plant-Based Controversies in the News

It’s Monday again, fellow nerds — time for the weekly roundup of all that’s going on in the plant-based/alt protein space! This week, we’re taking a look at upheaval and controversy. Because who doesn’t like a little conflict with their Monday coffee? 💥☕

Seriously, though, there are a few interesting (and possibly worrisome) developments to cover, so let’s dive in.

Plant-Based Terminology Could Be an Act of Parliament (Yes, Really)

Two new amendments being proposed by the European Union Parliament could completely put the kibosh on using meat- and dairy-related 🍖🧀 terms to market plant-based foods.

Parliament is standing on the now-tired excuse that such terms will confuse consumers, but meat producers call such labels “hijacking.”

They claim allowing it to continue will undermine the unique heritage built around the flavors and experiences of European food.

The European Alliance for Plant-Based Foods disagrees and has collected over 100,000 signatures in opposition to the ban. The group is also lobbying Parliament in an effort to have the amendments voted down.

Were the ban to pass, it could set up a domino effect requiring plant-based companies to rebrand and invent alternate product names that may not convey the very properties that consumers expect and enjoy. (And some proposed names are just plain off-putting. “Veggie tubes,” anyone? 🤢😧)

 Photo by Jiroe on Unsplash

Less 💰, More (Plant-Based) 🥩

Increasing demand for alternative proteins and plant-based transition foods that appeal to a wide range of tastes is finally enabling brands to step up production.

The result? Prices on par with animal proteins.

While the majority of plant-based 🌱 meat and dairy alternatives may not be ready to compete on pricing anytime soon, the trend toward mainstream affordability is likely to continue as consumers explore more ways to reduce meat intake.

One thing that largely gets overlooked in the pricing conversation, though: Eating whole, unprocessed plant foods 🥗 is almost always cheaper overall than a diet heavy and animal protein or plant-based alternatives. Which brings us to the next heated debate…

Is Heathier Enough, or Should the Bar Be Higher?

A recent report comparing plant-based meats to animal meats showed many popular products have:

  • Just as much or more protein 💪🏻
  • Similar or lower calorie counts
  • Similar or lower sodium levels 🧂
  • Less fat and saturated fat

The findings directly contradict numerous arguments put forth by the meat industry in its attempts to present alt proteins in a negative light. However, the question still remains as to whether plant-based brands should be expected to create options that could reasonably be included as major components of an overall healthy dietary pattern.

Not everyone agrees this is necessary or even preferable. As Derek Serno of Wicked Healthy recently told Vegconomist, healthy foods have always been available, and consumers are free to choose what they eat and why. 💭 According to Serno, expecting every processed product on the shelves to be some kind of superfood is unreasonable and allows consumers to shift responsibility for their health to someone other than themselves.

Definitely some food for thought this week. (Pun intended! 🤪) The health coach in me says kudos to Derek Serno on that last point — yes, plant-based meats can be part of a healthy diet, but nobody should expect a vegan burger dripping with vegan cheese and topped with fried onion rings to be as healthy as kale. 🌿Not that there isn’t a time for onion rings on burgers. Because—onion rings! 🤤

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