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Alberta beef producers carefully watch Beyond Meat veggie burger complaint

A cow and its calf graze in a pasture near Cremona, Alta. Alberta Beef Producers are supporting a complaint out of Quebec against a vegan company that sells a plant-based veggie patty. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Beef producers in Alberta are carefully watching an ongoing complaint from their Quebec counterparts.

The complaint’s target? American veggie burger company Beyond Meat. 

The company swept into Canada earlier this year, advertising a plant-based, meatless burger that mimics beef. It was first sold, to great fanfare, at A&W fast food restaurants and is now available at various grocery chains.

The vegan company hopes to tap into the meat-eater market because the burger more closely tastes like beef than standard veggie patties.

The Quebec Cattle Producers Federation filed a formal complaint with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency last week, arguing Beyond Meat has no right to advertise their product as “plant-based meat.”

Alberta Beef Producers and Canadian Cattleman’s Association, which is based in Calgary, have announced their support for the complaint.

“If they’re saying, ‘We’re selling plant-based protein,’ we don’t have any issue with that at all. That’s not misleading at all. That’s very clear what consumers are getting,” Alberta Beef Producers executive director Rich Smith told the Calgary Eyeopener.

“When they start introducing terms that they’re using in a comparative way and sometimes in a negative way in their advertising, then that’s where we think it’s unfair and misleading to to our industry and to consumers.”

beyond meat

Beyond Meat’s signature hamburger contains pea protein. (Beyond Meat)

Smith and others point to a definition of meat from the food inspection agency: essentially, it’s the edible part of an animal carcass.

Beyond Meat sells 4-ounce patties made of pea protein and canola oil.

“Our concern is with the potential for confusion,” Smith said.

Canada’s beef industry has taken a few knocks lately. It criticized the country’s new food guide for emphasizing alternative, plant-based proteins over meat and dairy products. And it’s seen beef and cattle exports decline in recent years, from $1.96 billion in 2014 to $987 million in 2018, according to Industry Canada.

science says meatless meats

A new era of meat alternatives is here, with Beyond Meat becoming the first vegan meat company to go public. Other meatless patties exist, as well. (Richard Drew/The Associated Press)

Smith remains skeptical that plant alternatives pose any threat to beef. As a proud meat eater, he said he hasn’t yet tried on of the Beyond Meat burgers.

“I’m curious but on the other hand, I really like hamburgers and I really like meat,” he said.

Beyond Meat “takes regulatory compliance very seriously,” the company said in a statement issued to CBC Montreal. It’s reviewing internally to ensure it’s complying with Canadian regulations, a spokesperson said.

Tim Horton’s plans to test Beyond Meat breakfast sandwiches, and may roll them out Canada-wide by the end of summer.

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