A battle of language and fake meat rages in Europe
EC: Vegan 'Meat' Shouldn't Be Called Meat, According to Meat Lobby
Credit: PHoto by Steve Ross via getty images

The names we give different foods are merely approximations of what they are. Velveeta is called "cheese." Nut water is called "milk." And meat producers in the European Union aren't thrilled with the fact that vegan bacon is being called bacon. In fact, they're proposing to remove meat-related words—like "hamburger" and "chicken nuggets"—from meatless food products all together. They think that calling vegetable-based foods "meat" is confusing and harmful. Speaking to Munchies, CEO of the British Meat Processors Association Nick Allen said "Meat is a product that comes from animals. Any use of the word in any other context is deceiving the public."

Clitravi, a meat producer conglomerate in the EU, says there's already more than enough legal precedence for this proposition. The proper naming of dairy products, for example, is already strictly enforced in Europe. Words relating to dairy, like "milk," "cheese," and "yogurt" must refer to foods that come from "mammary secretions." As such, on grocery shelves, Europeans see cartons of what we call "hemp milk," for example, labeled "hemp drink" or "hemp beverage." (You might remember that the dairy lobby in the United States is angling to do the same thing to protect dairy products.)

Apparently, current food regulations in Europe state that "labeling cannot be misleading as to a food's primary composition." So, while "vegan meat balls" is a no-go, Munchies explains, "vegan balls" is A-OK.

But is anyone really deceived by clearly identifiable vegan or vegetarian options using meaty terminology? It seems like a nitpick-y technicality with so many other naming imprecisions in the food world. The food labels that are often deemed "incorrect" seem perfectly representative of what the food they name does—almond milk acts as the liquid you pour in cereal and in pancake batter, and soy sausage sizzles on the grill in the same way that bratwurst does. As vegan and vegetarian diets grow in popularity, though, producers of animal-based products can't help but protect their territory.