Lawmakers in Rome voted to ban lab-grown meat, making Italy the first country in the world to outlaw such proteins.

While there are plenty of fake meat offerings already available in Italy, lab-grown meat has never been offered there, or anywhere in the European Union (EU), as the product has never received approval for sale here.

Both China and the US have approved such products for their consumer markets, however, the makers of the products face similar problems to those who manufacture other protein-based fake meats – they are struggling to get their costs down to a level where their product can be sold at anything other than a massive loss.

The Italian legislation also introduces restrictions on how plant-based products can be labelled, with meat-based names such as “salami” or “steak” banned for anything that isn’t actually salami or steak.

The timing of this week’s announcement from Beyond Meat that they have introduced vegan “pepperoni” to their offering, available via Pizza Hut in the UK, is probably completely coincidental.

Marketing distraction?

Or, the bit of marketing might be an attempt to distract from yet another really, really bad set of financial data from the maker of ‘not meat’.

Third quarter results released earlier this month showed the company continues to have slowing sales, with net revenue down 8.7% to $75.3m (€69m) in the three months to the end of September. (Note: profitable meat company JBS had revenue of $203m per day in the third quarter.)

Gross margin continued to be negative, at minus 9.6%, meaning the company lost money every time it sold something. It’s lucky then that sales were falling, as it meant that Beyond Meat only had a gross loss of €7.3m in the period compared to a $14.8m loss a year earlier.

US investment analyst company, TD Cowen, rather succinctly said that for Beyond Meat, the “core problem is the product.”