Vegan meat gets a victory but the battle for dairy-free labels wages on.
The European Parliament handed down a big victory to vegan meat producers on Friday. Lawmakers voted to allow labeling on meat-free products to include language like “burgers” and “sausages.”
Ranchers and farmers represented by Europe’s largest farmer association Copa-Cogeca, sought to prevent the use of these terms on vegan products. The terms are “misleading and unfair marketing,” according to the association. If Parliament agreed with Copa-Cogeca, vegan burgers would have had to find other terms to reach consumers like “veggie discs.”
Failure to accurately describe vegan meat products, the booming vegan industry argued, could dissuade consumers from adding healthier and more sustainable foods into their diet. That contradicts the EU’s own targets for emissions reduction and improving the health of Europeans.
“Reason prevailed, and climate sinners lost,” Nikolaj Villumsen, a member of the European Parliament tweeted after the vote. “It’s worth celebrating with a veggie burger.”
It’s “common sense,” says Camille Perrin, senior food policy officer at the European Consumer Organization.
“Consumers are in no way confused by a soy steak or chickpea-based sausage, so long as it is clearly labelled as vegetarian or vegan,” she said in a statement.
Parliament Sours on Dairy-Free Milk
Yet, despite the victory for vegan meat, dairy-free products won’t get the same permissions. Three years ago, Parliament ruled that dairy-free producers could not use words like milk or cheese on labeling; now producers may have to avoid other common descriptions like “yogurt-style” or even the term “creamy.” Producers must use terms like “almond drink” and avoid any reference to “milk” on the labeling.
“The votes won’t change the fact that more and more people are eating more vegetables and switching to meat and dairy alternatives,” said Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director Marco Contiero, “and will continue to call dairy-free products ‘yoghurt’ and ‘cheese’ anyway.” But the restrictive labeling is a sign that the industry is thriving and consumers are past the point of confusion. In the UK, nondairy milk sales skyrocketed 70 percent in 2019, according to Yahoo Finance. Sales in the EU are expected to surpass $2.22 billion by 2025.