Europe Takes a Bite Out of ‘Vegan Burgers’ and Finds Them to Its Taste

By William J. Furney

Fancy a “vegan tube”? How about a “veggie disc”? These were the meaty issues European politicians were digging into this week as they chewed over proposals from farmers over whether to ban the words sausages, burgers and even steak from being used on vegan and vegetarian products. 

After all, European Union rules protect the names of thousands of foods and drinks produced in the 27-member bloc, such as Champagne and various cheeses, like parmesan, meaning they can’t be used by other manufacturers. So why not aim for a ban on pesky plant-based producers muscling in on meat-product territory and trying to carve out part of the market for themselves?

The worried farmers are already shaking in their gumboots at the surge in veganism in recent years, as growing numbers of people ditch a meat-based diet and switch to plants — for a variety of reasons: health, animal welfare and helping to protect the environment, because animal farming is one of the main contributors to climate-changing greenhouse gases. The overarching desire is to live a more ethical life, starting with the choices you make in the supermarket and what you put on your plate. 

Even vegetarianism and its part-reliance on animal products is no longer doing it for the moral crowd. They want to go the whole hog and become pure, of body, mind and spirit, in the process. 

Cattle farmers fear that, given the choice on supermarket shelves, more shoppers will be tempted to reach for healthier options like vegan burgers. All the more so with the development of plant-based fare made to look and taste like meat, such as the popular and alluring offerings from LA-based Beyond Meat, which declares: “The positive choices that we make can have a great impact”. The company asks the profound questions: “Why do you need an animal to create meat? Why can’t you build meat directly from plants? It turns out you can. So we did.”

Impossible Foods, another plant-based California food firm with renderings of meat, has a terrific tagline: “Grill Burgers. Not the Planet.”

So what did the EU pols decide this week? To let people have their vegan burgers, sausages and everything else plant-based and eat them. 

Before, it was frowned upon to light up a cigarette in public. Increasingly now, ordering a bloody steak or similar at a restaurant table is raising eyebrows — and it’s far worse: you’re not just damaging your own health but each bite takes a chunk out of the environment and causes mass cruelty and death — for what? A slide across the taste buds and a plunge into the gut, where it festers and rots and is responsible for many cases of colon cancer.

Going a (Vegan) Step Further: My new vegan cowboy boots, made from plants. They’re from Will’s Vegan Store in London — not a promo; I paid. (Photo: William J. Furney)

“I’m going to celebrate with a vegan burger,” said Swedish MEP Jytte Guteland after the European Parliament voted on Friday to allow plant-based foods to carry the names of their meat-based rivals. 

Dairy substitutes that don’t contain milk, such as vegan cheese and soya and almond milk, didn’t fare as well, however. MEPs backed more stringent regulations on such items, which were prohibited from using “milk” in their names in a ruling by the European Court of Justice three years ago. 

“Non-dairy products cannot hijack our dairy terms and the well-deserved reputation of excellence in milk and dairy,” the European Dairy Association lobby group reportedly rejoiced after the Brussels vote. “This is a good day for the EU lactoshpere, and for our European consumers and citizens, and for Europe,” it declared. 

Lactosphere or not (Google returns zero results and says “there aren’t many great matches for your search”, or any), actually, it’s a disaster.

Milk consumption across the world is plummeting, as more people realise the health, ethical and downright eww risks of consuming birth food made for another species’ babies, not humans. Prices have fallen to such pitiful levels that many dairy farmers struggle to survive and many pour away their product because it’s not worth bringing to market. And consider that milk is produced by female mammals to feed their newborns, and not only are calves swiftly removed from their mothers, causing great distress to both, but cows are artificially prodded to keep on lactating — for most of the year — and pumped full of hormones and antibiotics. Fake milk with a side helping of pus? Pass.

In some countries, farmers are able to inject their cows with a drug called bovine somatotropin, or bovine growth hormone, to get more milk out of them. It has, perhaps somewhat unsurprisingly, been linked to increased rates of breast cancer. In the terrifying meat and dairy industry, farmers are also permitted in some places to jab their livestock with steroids and hormones to literally beef them up. It’s no wonder we’re dying from so many dietary-related diseases. 

For decades, milk has been marketed as essential for human health and really strong bones! But it turns out, as with lots of marketing scams, that the opposite is true and that milk can cause brittle bones and osteoporosis. Always look to nature and in this case ask, where do cows get their calcium from? Plants. 

It also turns out that these humble yet powerful organisms, not deadly meat, are our future and possible salvation.

  • Title image is of a Beyond Meat Cookout Classic plant-based burger. (Courtesy Beyond Meat)

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