Americans Want Clearer Labels on Fake Meat: Poll

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The terms “nuggets” and “wings” are automatically associated with real, tasty chicken. But lately, fake meat companies have been co-opting the terms on their labels to get consumers to buy their “plant-based” synthetic meat.

A new survey finds that Americans are not okay with the fake meat bait-and-switch. The poll found that 81 percent of respondents want clearer product labels so they know when they are grabbing real meat products or an imitation. 

Today, many fake meat brands include the word “chicken” on their products despite the fact that they contain no real meat. Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, for example, include the word “chicken” on the package while other fake meat companies, such as Alpha Foods, include a look-alike term such as “chik’n.” 

The misleading marketing could confuse consumers who are rushed at the store and don’t have time to read the novel-length ingredient list on the back of fake meat products. The poll found that more than 20 percent of Americans reported that they had accidentally purchased a fake meat product thinking it was the real thing. 

The polling data made it clear that American consumers don’t want to have to comb the fine print to find out if the nuggets or wings they purchase are made with real ingredients. Just 14 percent of Americans stated that they think the term “chicken” is appropriate for plant-based products. Nearly 70 percent reported that they think the term “meat” should only refer to … well… real meat. 

It isn’t just carnivores who think the packaging needs clearer labels. Vegans and vegetarians reported a desire for clearer labeling at a rate higher than the average chicken consumer, 86 percent and 81 percent respectively.

Fake meat neither has the taste nor the nutrition of real chicken, yet imitation meat companies get to sit on the roost of real chicken’s reputation.

The fake meat companies do not want to provide clear labeling anytime soon. “Ultra-processed, preservative-filled soy and pea nuggets” will not test well in marketing focus groups. 

But consumers deserve to know what they are purchasing without having to go on a label scavenger hunt. 

Several groups have urged the Food and Drug Administration and the United States Department of Agriculture to issue guidance for fake meat labeling to avoid confusion for customers. Real meat products must follow strict labeling guidelines to keep consumers safe. It’s only fair that imitation products do the same.