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8 things about fake meats for beef producers to consider

As we determine the best way to respond to negative attacks on the beef industry from fake meat companies, here are eight things to think about.

A new calendar year means a new speaking schedule, and I’m hitting the ground running in 2020! I spent the weekend in Murfreesboro, Tenn., at the 2020 Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association Convention and Trade Show.

What a pleasure it was to connect with old friends and meet new ones, too! Perhaps most exciting was meeting producers who have been reading the BEEF Daily blog since its inception in 2008. These folks have loyally followed along as I graduated from college, got married, bought a ranch, filled it with cattle and grew our family!

If you’re one of those folks, thanks for being along for the ride! I truly appreciate loyal readers like you, and I welcome new followers to join in the BEEF community! THANK YOU!

Anyway, now that I’m home from this event, I’ve had some time to reflect on the convention and the ground we covered in the various topics I presented on. Day one had me speaking in front of youth members and their parents. These kids show cattle and are the future members of the association. It was very rewarding to share with these show families, ways they could be the best beef industry advocates when exhibiting at county and state fairs, as well as junior breed association events.

I’ve talked at length on this topic in two separate podcasts. You can listen to these conversations here:

Stock Talk: Episode #38 with Amanda Radke

Chute Side: Promoting agriculture with Amanda Radke

Day two of the event had me presenting at the opening session of the general assembly. I was tasked with sharing my thoughts on fake meats and how the beef industry should respond to these alternative proteins entering the meat case.

Without question, fake meats continue to be the most popular topic I address at agricultural conferences across the country. Here are eight take-home messages from my presentation for producers to mull over:

1. Plant-based & lab-made proteins are another choice available to feed a hungry planet. Beef is used to the competition. Each day, we compete with other proteins like pork, chicken and turkey, as well as plant-based proteins like peanut butter, quinoa, protein shakes and bars and more. These options are great and all meet a need for today’s consumers. So is the beef industry really afraid of the competition from veggie burgers and plant-based patties? No, that’s not the issue at all.

2. These products offer opportunities for farmers to grow peas, corn, wheat, soybeans. There’s nothing that irks me more than seeing one beef producer who raises his cattle in a certain way disparage another one in order to sell his products. The great thing about this industry is we can all raise the beef that fits our goals and matches our environment and our customer. That’s why today’s consumer enjoys a wide variety of options — grass-fed, organic, all-natural, Certified Angus, Certified Hereford, Meyer’s Natural, etc. Whether you’re shopping on a budget or wanting your beef to meet specific production criteria to match your values, there are choices to select from! In a nutshell, growing row crops to produce plant-based patties is another marketing avenue for your farming operation. If it fits your business, go for it!

3. Let the consumer decide what’s best for them, but let’s give them accurate information to consider when they shop! Hey, if you want to make dietary choices to improve your health or support planetary health, great! Unfortunately, the media, celebrities and these fake meat companies would like consumers to think that going meatless is the best way to address climate change, and that’s simply not the case! What are the facts? Let’s stick to those and leave the emotional propaganda at the door!

4. Frankly, the constant mud-slinging of these groups and companies shows what we in the beef industry already know — these products can’t stand on their own merits (nutritionally, ethically, environmentally), so they have to use fear and disparaging language against beef, pork and dairy to boost their sales and get a return on their investments. This lacks moral character, and when even the Whole Foods CEO is saying that these products are just glamorized junk food, well, then it’s no wonder they want to distract folks about the true value of their products and instead try to destroy a competing protein with their rhetoric instead.

5. Nomenclature matters. These companies want to hijack our highly-reputable names (like beef, meat, pork, chicken, sausage, etc), and they want to slap it on their junk food! Our well-known and loved products have such great demand thanks to our checkoff dollars that are invested in research, promotion and education. For these products to be able to slap our name on their packaging is simply ridiculous. Labeling is critical!

6. We must insist that the definition of meat and milk be accurately depicted on our food labels. Transparency matters. Consumers deserve to know what they are buying, and producers deserve that distinction. The definition of meat and dairy needs to be clearly designed to distinguish the faux imitation products from the real deal.

7. And while I despise speaking ill of another food product, I must say, I think the beef industry has an incredible story and an even better product! And we need to sing it from the rooftops. So here’s the truth: The beef animal can accomplish more when utilized nose-to-tail than a pea protein patty or petri-dish protein could ever dream of! Cows not only provide us with nutritious, delicious and satisfying beef, but they also offer by-products that enrich our daily lives, all while utilizing land and grazing brush that would otherwise sit idle and become kindling for the next big wild fire. (By the way, I wonder if Ellen realizes her Cover Girl makeup comes from cows?) #beneatletseatmeat  

8. In short, I think if our consumers really understood what they were buying, and if the beef industry could find a way to make cattle cool again, they would quickly say no to the fake stuff, and vote with their dollars by eating the real thing! Do your best, fake meats, but beef is KING! #BEEFItsWhatsForDinner

Thanks to the Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association for inviting me to speak at your annual meeting! I sure enjoyed the Southern hospitality, the warm weather and the fellowship!

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.

TAGS: Beef Quality
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