July 22, 2019

Big Ag Must Think Consumers Are Really Stupid

When you see peanut butter, do you wonder if it required churning peanut milk from a peanut cow? When you see a hot dog, do you question if canines were harmed in the making? Have you ever fretted about lady fingers being a cannibalistic cookie? Of course not. 

But some members of the animal agriculture industry seem to view consumers as being that gullible. You need to be protected from your own child-like bewilderment! 

This, anyway, is their excuse for pushing bills in 28 states (so far) to prohibit animal-product alternatives like almond “milk,” soy “butter,” cashew “cheese,” veggie “burgers” and other plant-based foods from using these words on their labels. Restrictive definitions of words like “milk” and “meat” would exclude products that don’t originate from live animals, forcing makers of plant-based foods to go through the costly process of renaming and relabeling their products. 

Six states—Mississippi, Arkansas, South Carolina, Wyoming, North Dakota and Missouri—have signed these bills into law. Other states are likely to follow. 

It’s not surprising that Big Ag is pursuing these laws: Not because it genuinely cares about public confusion, of which there is zero evidence, but because these alternative products pose serious competition in the marketplace. As demand shifts due to animal welfare, environmental and public health concerns, Big Ag wants to protect conventional, inhumane, unsustainable factory farming practices by crippling its competitors—by any means necessary. 

The hypocrisy is staggering. Big Ag fakes concern over “confusing” labels on plant-based foods, yet many meat and dairy companies deliberately use misleading claims to entice shoppers. Look at how companies label their pork and poultry products “hormone-free,” for example. Consumers are willing to pay more because they believe this term indicates better treatment [PDF] of pigs and chickens. Yet it is a meaningless claim; federal regulation already bans the use of hormones in those species. “Natural” is another label that brings to mind happy animals in grassy fields, but is actually an empty claim that indicates nothing about the treatment of animals.

You can take a stand against Big Ag’s insincere, phony, petty laws by getting savvy about food labels and joining the movement to support more humane options. Check out our Shop With Your Heart label guide to learn more about which labels are meaningful for animals, and peruse our master Brand List to learn which companies are animal welfare-certified or plant-based.