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I love a good Twitter argument as much as the next gal, especially when it’s about a topic that I can seriously nerd out on, like cell-based meat.
Or is that cultivated meat? This week Finless Foods’ co-founder and CEO Michael Selden got in a bit of a tweet-based tiff with the folks at The Good Food Institute over what the cellular agriculture industry should call animal meat grown without the animal.
Frustrating that cellular agriculture gets referred to by a million names including “lab grown”, which is literally inaccurate. It’s going to keep happening until people stop making up new ones. Looking at you @GoodFoodInst pic.twitter.com/4bFTye0Klq
— Mike Selden (@MikeSeldenFF) November 11, 2019
Basically, Selden argues that it doesn’t matter what cultured meat calls itself, as long as it’s consistent. Cultured, for instance, is fine! Clean meat — okay, though it has ruffled feathers of meat companies. Most recently companies came out in support of cell-based.
However, a few months ago GFI started a push replace cell-based with “cultivated,” arguing that it more accurately describes the production process.
Selden isn’t against the term cultivated in and of itself. Rather, he’s against all this flip-flopping back and forth over what to call the stuff. His point is that if there isn’t one universally accepted go-to term for cultured meat, journalists and others will revert to “lab-grown.” And that, as he stated in the Twitter thread, “sounds terrible and is inaccurate.”
GFI’s President Bruce Friedrich had a response to Selden’s qualms:
If we all use cultivated, it will become the term.
— Bruce Friedrich (@BruceGFriedrich) November 12, 2019
I can understand Selden’s frustration. What if everyone gets on board with using the term cultivated, then three years from now someone decides that there’s an even better word and tries to switch people over to that one? As Selden points out in his response to Friedrich, as the industry grows, changing terminology across the board will become more difficult.
The bigger point here is that names matter. That’s certainly true from a sales perspective: just look at how “plant-based” gave a facelift to alternative proteins in a way that “vegan” never quite could. It’s also significant from a regulatory perspective. The USDA will get final say over how cell-based meat is labeled, and the way that it brands itself could have an effect on their decisions.
Since cultured meat has yet to reach the market there’s still time to settle on a name for the stuff. As long as everyone sticks with it.
Fast-food embraces plant-based in the US, Canada and Europe
Wowza, what a week for meatless fast-food burgers.
Buoyed by the success of the Impossible Whopper, Burger King in the U.S. announced it would test three new menu items featuring the Impossible Burger, including the Impossible Whopper Jr. (for the kids!). Across the Atlantic, the chain is launching the Rebel Whopper, featuring plant-based patties from Unilever-owned The Vegetarian Butcher, in thousands of European locations. Up in Canada, Wendy’s is also secretly piloting a meatless burger called The Plentiful — though we don’t know which brand of patty they’ll be using.
It’s no wonder fast-food has taken such a shine to plant-based burgers. These meat-free offerings bring in new, potentially lapsed customers while upping the general check size. They’ve been so lucrative for BK that the chain reported a 5 percent boost in sales thanks to the Impossible Whopper.
Clearly Burger King knows it’s got a good thing going. It’s currently the largest fast-food restaurant to sell plant-based burgers, and I’ll bet it’s going to expand these offerings fast and furiously before competitors like McDonald’s and Wendy’s take a serious jump into the meatless burger ring. Or at least expand them beyond Canada.
Protein ’round the web
- Tyson is now selling its Raised & Rooted meat-free chicken nuggets in 7,000 locations. Next up, it’ll start distributing its blended, half-beef half-plant burgers.
- Oatly’s parent company Swebol Biotech just filed a patent for a new plant-based milk made from quinoa (h/t VegNews).
- Quiznos is piloting plant-based corned beef sandwiches in select locations in Denver (via Livekindly).
Finally, if you haven’t already, make sure to catch up on the latest in the plant-based meat labeling battle. Then go buy yourself some veggie burgers and be glad they don’t have to rebrand as veggie ‘discs.’