Robyn Beck / AFP via Getty Images
The European Parliament met on Friday to vote on a variety of issues, including whether a veggie burger is a hamburger.
Farmers’ lobbyists argued no. Environmentalists said yes.
Parliament also said yes, in a deciding vote against a measure that would prohibit reference to plant-based meat alternatives by the names of their meat counterparts. This means terms like steak, sausage, and hamburger.
“Reason prevailed and climate sinners lost” – Nikolaj Villumsen, Member of the European Parliament tweeted after the vote. “It’s worth celebrating with a veggie burger.”
It’s “common sense,” according to Camille Perrin, head of food policy at the European Consumers Organization.
“Consumers are in no way confused with a soy fillet or chickpea-based sausage, as long as it is clearly labeled vegetarian or vegan,” he said in a statement.
Terms like “hamburger” and “steak” for plant-based foods help consumers understand how to integrate them into their meals, Perrin said.
Before the vote, Europe’s largest farmers’ association Copa-Cogeca argued that such names hurt farmers and promoted “misleading and unfair marketing.”
“We simply ask that the work of millions of European farmers and livestock workers be recognized and respected,” said Jean-Pierre Fleury, president of Copa-Cogeca, in a statement earlier this month. “I’m not afraid to say that this is an obvious case of cultural kidnapping.”
But while plant-based meat alternatives are safe, vegan dairy alternatives, like almond milk or tofu butter, are not.
Now Parliament has tightened restrictions and could ban descriptions such as “yogurt style”, “alternative to butter” or “creamy”, according to Political.
Greenpeace’s EU agricultural policy director Marco Contiero called the move “shameful”.
“The votes will not change the fact that more and more people are eating more vegetables and switching to meat and dairy alternatives,” Contiero said in a statement, “and will continue to call dairy-free ‘yogurt’ and ‘cheese’ anyway.”
These discussions are not limited to the EU.
In 2018, France prohibited the use of meat-like terms to describe vegetarian products.
And in the United States Organizations have fought for legislation to ban the labeling of meat alternatives as meat. Similarly, some states have argued about labeling oatmeal or almond milk “milk.”
Before the vote, Greenpeace took to Twitter to oppose the proposal to ban the names.
“It seems very petty, but the meat industry lobby wants the European Parliament to ban the word ‘veggie burger’ because they say it’s confusing,” he said. cheep said before concluding:
“If the word ‘veggie burger’ confuses you … what do you think a ‘hot dog’ is?”
Reese Oxner is an intern at the NPR news desk.