I have a couple different soapboxes I tend to jump on relatively quickly – one of which is meat-replacement products that are intended to look, taste, and feel just like meat…. one of my platforms is “if we need to have products to look like meat, what type of message is that sending our omni- friends?”
The other is the one I’m going to babble on about today: the idea of mislabeling a product to increase sales when that product blatantly goes against the beliefs of the people being marketed to.
Today’s topic: The Impossible Burger.
I am reading articles all over the place about how it’s JUST LIKE MEAT and you can FOOL YOUR FRIENDS … and how restaurants are adding this new vegan burger to the menu.
First and foremost: why do we need to fool anyone? I find it interesting that on the Impossible Foods product website FAQ it states “…we recreated the precise flavors, textures, aromas, and nutrition of ground beef — using only plants” … Why would I want the nutritional value of ground beef when it is LESS THAN that of plant-based proteins? Eating meat is not healthy so emulating the consumption of meat does not make much sense to me.
But – that’s just me. Moving on to the real topic of today’s post: marketing a product to a specific group of people with a specific belief system with a lie. Yes – a lie.
Before I go any further, I do want to make the statement that Impossible Foods never
states the Impossible Burger is vegan. In fact, on Facebook to an individual from Fauna Animal Sanctuary, they stated they were NOT vegan. On their website, they repeatedly talk about it being a plant-based product, which is true. A non-meat eater who is not interested in living a cruelty-free or vegan lifestyle could eat this product with no issue.
Here is my beef (pun intended): Multiple businesses, primarily restaurants, are marketing the product as their new vegan menu item. There are TONS of articles online about how fantastic this new vegan burger is … but its not vegan and its certainly not cruelty-free.
The next question you may have is “how in the world can a plant-based product not be vegan?” Here is a snippet from Impossible Foods FAQ page:
“We have a team of world-class researchers — including VP of Nutrition and Health Sue Klapholz — committed to making the Impossible Burger the most nutritious and safe burger on the planet. We’ve conducted rigorous testing, including a stringent rat feeding study that found no adverse effects even at consumption levels of leghemoglobin 200 times higher than a human would be likely to consume.”
As you can see, they call out a study in which rat’s are used. The reason for the study is because this product uses a genetically modified yeast to produce heme from a plant protein called leghemoglobin. Heme which is a protein that is found in animal muscle and gives meat a certain flavor and aroma.
It may not seem as bad as you might think; however, the study is done via autopsy which means the lives of those rats was terminated to study the effects of various doses of leghemoglobin on the body. Because of this, the vegan and cruelty-free communities would not have interest in purchasing or consuming this product.
A question I have is this: does Impossible Foods have a responsibility in correcting the incorrect marketing that is occurring even though they are not the company doing it? Do they have a Corporate Social Responsibility to the communities of people who may be consuming a product that goes against their very core?
Personally, I think so. I doubt there is legal repercussions, but as I said, I think they owe it to the plant-based community to have their products marketed accordingly.
Does it matter if the testing has ended? Yes… while the animal testing may end at some point, once they’ve proven the safety of their food (am I the only one that thinks that is a weird thing to say – prove the safety of their food) … but if their product does well, I’m sure the Research and Development crew at Impossible Foods will be out there trying to recreate fried chicken, pulled pork, gyros … which would require them to start the animal testing process all over again.