Federated Farmers might ask the government to get tougher on the use of dairy and meat terms for plant-based products, if similar moves overseas are successful.
In Europe, legislation is being considered that would restrict the use of descriptions like pattie and steak to apply only to products containing meat and not to vegetarian alternatives.
The case for this, with those examples, isn’t clear-cut.
Pattie applies to a recipe that can be used for a variety of ingredients including whitebait and vegetables; and steak is a cut that applies to both meat and fish, though not traditionally vegetables.
Australian dairy farmers are also seeking to restrict the term to bovine dairy products.
Federated Farmers dairy spokesperson Chris Lewis said it was closely watching what was happening overseas.
“We’ll support our farmers worldwide in their efforts to bring [about] … fair labelling and if they get success we’ll have a chat with out Minister of Ag [agriculture] and engage with him,” Mr Lewis said.
While it was up to consumers to choose what they buy, the terms used to sell some plant-based products, such as almond milk, did not accurately represent what they were, he said.
“Be proud of what you’ve got and call it almond juice, it’s definitely not a milk under the definition in the Oxford Dictionary… so just clearly label what you’ve got,” Mr Lewis said.
“I just encourage other food producers if they’ve got a great story to tell, don’t piggy back off us.”
The case for restricting the term milk to the liquid that comes from animal’s udders is stronger than the one for terms that apply to ways of cutting or cooking meat. Fruit mince, for example, has been an ingredient of pies for centuries.
But as one of our sharemilkers put it bluntly – milk comes from tits not nuts.
He’s right and what differentiates milk from animals from the plant based pretenders is that the former has only one ingredient, the liquid for which it is named. In contrast to that, the pretenders, with the exception of coconut milk, have multiple ingredients.
The pretenders are also highly processed and often have added sugar, two things which people promoting healthy diets advise should be avoided where possible.
Fonterra chief science and technology officer Jeremy Hill said the dairy company held a firm view that consumers had a right to chose what they ate.
“But that choice should be informed, and at the moment I think these plant-based milks have a positioning that says they’re milk and plant-based, unfortunately from a content basis they’re providing inferior nutrition to what you find in dairy products,” he said. . .
Calling plant-based liquid with several other ingredients milk, could fool consumers into thinking it has the same nutritional value as the real thing when it doesn’t and that provides solid grounds for the call to restrict the name milk to milk.
There’s a precedence for this in ice cream. The Australia New Zealand Food Code states:
Note In this Code (see section 1.1.2—3):
ice cream means a sweet frozen food that is made from cream or milk products or both, and other foods, and is generally aerated.
2.5.6—3 Requirement for food sold as ice cream
A food that is sold as ‘ice cream’ must:
(a) be ice cream; and
(b) contain no less than:
(i) 100 g/kg of milk fat; and
(ii) 168 g/L of food solids.
If ice cream has to be made from cream or milk then it shouldn’t be hard to require milk to be just that – milk and not a highly processed plant based alternative with multiple ingredients and less nutritional value.