A law passed by the French government to ban the use of meat description terms for use with fake meat was due to come into effect his week.

However, a legal decision in April means that it is deferred, while an EU court decides if a single member country can legislate in this way or whether it violates the rules of the EU single market.

Depending on that decision, France can either go solo with the decision or else an EU-wide policy will have to be agreed before rules can be put in place for what is required to use names such as steak, burger, etc.

As has been shown with the registration of trade names and PGI and PDO designations, many European countries are particularly sensitive when it comes to describing food.

There isn’t a uniform policy between EU members and there tends to be a greater focus on food in southern Mediterranean countries.

The use of and recognition of PGI and PDO terms is evidence of this, with half of all registered PGIs in Italy.

What’s in a name?

Of course, marketing people will find a way around whatever restrictions are put in place for describing goods.

So far, there hasn’t been widespread adoption of replica meat products made from a vegetable- or laboratory-created base. Naturally, farmers and the wider established processing industry are keen to protect the integrity of the products that they grow, process and market.

That isn’t a view that may be shared outside the industry and, in many countries, it is perfectly acceptable to prefix the traditional meat or dairy product name with vegetarian.

Development of products that compete for the same market as traditional meat and dairy have been a reality for several years by this stage.

However, despite huge investment, often by high-profile global figures, development of alternatives to meat and dairy products have only had limited success so far, with many high-profile companies such as Beyond Meat racking up losses.

Original is best so far

As well as getting consumer acceptance for the concept, so far product offering hasn’t been able to match the meat or dairy product they seek to replace. That may not always be the case, with further research and product development.

The other weakness is that all alternatives offered to indigenous meat or dairy products involve a huge level of processing, which doesn’t sit easily with an image of healthy natural alternative to meat and dairy.

Despite the difficulties in developing and securing consumer adoption of plant or laboratory-based products so far doesn’t mean that they won’t become a serious competitor at some point in the future.

If we look outside agriculture for an example of how established practices change and evolve, transport provides a good example.

Historically, heavy goods were transported by canal, which in turn gave way to steam-powered railway carriages by the middle of the 19th century.

In the 20th century, road transport became dominant, with railways in second place before on-land haulage and diesel oil replaced steam as the energy source.

Looking to the future, it may be possible that hydrogen or some other energy source not yet known replaces diesel.

In the auto industry, which replaced the horse-drawn carriage with petrol vehicles, battery power is recognised as the future source of energy.

Meat and dairy products have stood the test of time across all these developments in the transport sector and while they are likely to remain the consumer product of choice for the foreseeable future, we can never take consumers for granted.

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