Protein Politics: Vegetarian Meat Company Field Roast Gets Booted From Canada

As a lawyer who has called out plenty of transgressions by unethical food companies, it’s frustrating when the law gets it wrong. That’s exactly what happened to the alternative meat company Field Roast, based in Seattle, but also selling products to our neighbors to the north. That is, until the Canadian government informed Field Roast that the company’s products were mislabeled. Not only that, the products also had to be tested — wait for it — on live animals.

Here is how Field Roast’s blog explains the situation:

The regulations rule that we are making a “simulated meat product” and need to add this language to our labels. The standards for a “simulated meat product” require a Protein Efficiency Ratio (PER) study (conducted using live animals) to evaluate the protein in relation to animal meats.

Let me get this straight: A company making an alternative to animal foods is supposed to test their products on live animals to prove the products are similar to animal foods? The company’s CEO David Lee explains his understandable dismay: “We’re driven to make these foods because we feel very strongly about having compassion for animals.” Hello. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency also wants Field Roast to add chemical supplements and vitamins for fortification, which Lee finds “offensive.” As he should.

Another irony is that the type of protein test results Canada requires does not currently exist because as Field Roast explains, they make a “protein-rich vegetarian sausage entirely from wheat, vegetables and real ingredients”, as opposed to soy or other more recognized proteins.

Apparently a “competitor” made a complaint, and that’s how this whole Kafkaesque episode got started. There is no safety issue here (current products can remain in stores until they run out), only a dumb regulation that sounds suspiciously like it was written by meat lobbyists. For example, a “simulated meat product” that resembles sausage must have “a total protein content of not less than 11 per cent” and  “a fat content of not more than 25 per cent”. Why are these foods being compared to meat for nutrition content? Who else would benefit from such laws other than an industry threatened by competing products?

This situation is a sad example of how an innovative company can get caught up in nonsensical regulations intended to benefit the status quo. This problem will only get worse with more alternative animal products going mainstream. For example, plant-based innovations such as egg-less “Just Mayo” from Hampton Creek are becoming more popular. Large chains like Walmart, Target, Kroger, Safeway, Costco, and even Dollar Tree are signing deals to carry Just Mayo, according to TIME. With this level of success, innovation and regulation will inevitably collide. And run-ins with the powerful animal food industry will escalate. Right on cue, the American Egg Board launched a PR response to the “huge threat” Hampton Creek poses to Big Egg.

Field Roast says they are trying to work things out with the Canadian government, and let’s hope they do. Meanwhile, an unhappy Field Roast customer in Toronto has started a Change.org petition, in which he is asking (among other things) for his government to eliminate the testing requirement, as well as to allow companies to use common names such as “milk” and “meat” on vegetarian products. The issue of not being able to name alternative animal products what companies would like to is also a huge problem in the United States, and I will soon write more about that.

Yet another reminder that new and growing food companies should be engaging with food lawyers, at every stage of their development, to protect against these sorts of risks.

29 Responses to “Protein Politics: Vegetarian Meat Company Field Roast Gets Booted From Canada”

  1. Lisa Busa says:

    I think vegan/vegetarian companies should be able to use the word “meat” because the definition of “meat” is: food of any kind; the edible part of anything such as in fruits or nuts. It doesn’t have to refer to animal flesh/muscle.

    • michele says:

      Excellent point Lisa, now you’re thinking like a lawyer!

    • Mitchell says:

      Like Coconut Meat!

    • Kathryn says:

      That is a great point.

    • ANDO says:

      but why would you want to use the word meat unless you were trying to mislead people, if people like veges, why not call them veges. is there a group of people who are veges but want to fool themselves into thinking they are eating animals, if so, who cares about them

      • Rachael says:

        are you kidding me! there is nothing intrinsic about the word meat, language is symbolism, which is why not all words translate between them. In regards to food, the word meat is more of a description of texture, and a way of defining it as a protein and not a vegetable or a starch otherwise known as a carbohydrate. Field Roast is not trying to fool anyone nor are they trying to redefine anything. They are merely trying to point out that we do not have to think about meat only being dead animal flesh, and that meat is just a word and we have the power to have a brain re-assign the association so that one day we can evolve past the barbaric slaughter of our fellow beings.

  2. Mary says:

    Completely ridiculous! This needs to change!

  3. Judith Megesi says:

    Apparently, meat producers can use thr buzz word “organic” if their feed is deemed so. Never mind that the poor anomals are given steroids, other drugs, confined in cages and murdered horrifically after being crammed in yransports under appalling conditions. BUT the word organic sells to people who think this is better. thonk this

  4. Kevin Wilkins says:

    That really is a fantastic point, Lisa, and one that I don’t believe I’ve heard raised before! I really can’t get over the absurdity of this action by Canadian officials.

  5. steve says:

    definition from regulation 31/05, meat regulation:
    “meat” means the muscle that is derived from the carcass of a food animal, that is intended for human consumption and that is associated with the skeleton, tongue, diaphragm, heart, gizzard or mammalian esophagus, whether or not the muscle is accompanied by fat, and includes those parts of the bones, skin, sinews, nerves, blood vessels and other tissues that normally accompany the muscle and are not ordinarily removed in dressing a carcass, but does not include meat by-products, mechanically separated meat or meat to which an ingredient other than meat has been added or, except if reference is made to meat derived from farm slaughtered carcasses, any product that is derived in whole or in part from a farm slaughtered carcass; (“viande”)

    • David says:

      This is the meat industries definition, not the dictionary’s. Just because you can throw a rock, doesn’t make it an airplane…

    • Suzanne says:

      LMGTFY

      Full Definition of MEAT

      1
      a : food; especially : solid food as distinguished from drink
      b : the edible part of something as distinguished from its covering (as a husk or shell)
      2
      : animal tissue considered especially as food:
      a : flesh 2b; also : flesh of a mammal as opposed to fowl or fish
      b : flesh 1a; specifically : flesh of domesticated animals

  6. Tommy Woodward says:

    It’s been tested on animals, my dog loves it.

    Plus aren’t all the humans who’ve already eaten it, animals?

  7. Helen says:

    Reading through the responses, it’s clear that common sense comes naturally to vegans. Keep it coming!

  8. Julie says:

    You’re pretty awesome!!! Great, great point!!

  9. Julie says:

    ^^^(That’s in regards to Lisa’s comment)

  10. Vegans have common sense because the arteries in their brains aren’t clogged with animal fat.

  11. Mark says:

    How crazy is this world. Too many rules and regulations.

  12. Sunny Raja says:

    Well, see the Harper Tory Canadian government can be bought by Big Ag just as well as the USA!! Not saying that a Liberal gov’t would by too much better, because lets face it: The system is BROKEN! Huge Corporations donate huge $ to re-election campaigns, and in kind the elected officials are beholden to vote in compliance with their supporters.
    Not saying I have a solution till the ‘democratic election’ system if FIXED, but reducing the amount of biz that one conducts with corporations that are in conflict with the public good (most of the BIG ones)
    is a good start. Being politically active helps too…

  13. John says:

    I will forward this to, Michael Chong, a member of parliament in my area. He is a good man and will look into this.

  14. Karen Pittenger says:

    Congratulations to the Canadian government for achieving the level of stupidity not seen since Salem. Is this an Onion piece? As has been pointed out here meat is defined as simply content; and these products are a part of a food evolution, the most important aspect of which is freedom of choice. Vegans know that we are not free to choose to harm animals. Anyone who buys Field Roast knows more about the needs of the human body than apparently anyone in the Canadian government or anyone who eats animals. No, the government does not get to declare Field Roast must be in any way similar to the flesh of an animal. Period.

  15. shereeliz caldwell says:

    It is so ironic that most of the alternative “meat” products are now made of either soy products (often not organic) or wheat and gluten products–both of which many vegans/vegetarians avoid or are allergic to. Health food producers that can avoid meat, wheat and gluten will reap a fine profit if my friends and I are typical of this ilk of consumer who mostly stick with variations on rice/beans/veggies but sometimes like to fix something reminiscent of our fast-food years1

  16. Maha Raman says:

    There are no problems only opportunity !! We need to ‘deal’ in the black market…just like drugs…hehe….if people want it, it will come to them…oh poor govt will not get a cut from the taxes they would charge….serves ‘em right !!!

  17. Patricia says:

    UPDATE:

    Field Roast Re-enters Canada – without having to test on live animals.

    http://www.just-food.com/news/vegan-firm-field-roast-to-re-enter-canada_id129730.aspx

  18. Natasha Wewerka says:

    As a strict vegan I’m so thankful for your product line…. It’s
    hard to get enough daily protein, and the Frankfurters are so good.
    I too, care for my fellow animals and choose not to eat them.

  19. Candy Tutt says:

    RE ‘Meat’ – for decades I have read recipies that call for, brace yourselves, NUT MEATS. Yeah – Walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts~~ they’re all meats. So kick back and enjoy that peanut hot dog! *sheesh*

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