PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Veggie burgers, veggie hot dogs — the popularity of plant-based alternatives to meat has soared in the United States. But some have beef with that, and it’s all because of how the food is being labeled.
The same debate has been brewing when it comes to non-dairy milk alternatives, like almond or soy. Right now, there is a federal proposal that would reserve the term “milk” only to “hooved animals.”
And a similar push could turn your veggie burger into a veggie patty.
Chef Douglas Duke makes a great burger. That is not up for debate inside of Johnny Brenda’s in Fishtown.
But there is a debate brewing and that is what earns the right to be called a burger.
“The burger is the subject and veggie or meat is the qualifier. I’m just saying you can’t call a veggie patty a burger,” one woman said.
“I had a crab cake sandwich the other day. I didn’t call it a crab burger,” said one man.
This conversation has taken a serious turn in other parts of the country. This week, Arkansas joined Missouri and Mississippi in states prohibiting meat alternatives from labeling their products using traditional meaty terminology like “burger.”
The thought is that an item labeled as a veggie burger, for example, could lead to consumer confusion.
“A patty made of vegetables is not a burger. They are two different things,” one woman said.
“It’s like a burger. It tastes like a burger, it’s just a veggie burger,” one man said.
On Monday, a lawsuit was filed by the ACLU to stop the new Arkansas law, arguing that it is unconstitutional and violates the protection of commercial free speech.
But we found the issue to be a bit more philosophical and divided into two camps: those who think a burger is defined by its contents, and those who feel it earns its name with its assembly.
“No matter if there is meat in it or if it’s made of any kind of vegetable or protein beans, what have you, then it’s still a burger,” one man said.
Under the Arkansas law, every plant or cell-based meat alternative item would be fined $1,000 if they use terms commonly associated with meat on their label.
The ACLU is suing Arkansas on behalf of the company Tofurky. They claim there is no consumer confusion.