Politics & Law

Australian Study Assesses Politics of Alternative Proteins as Regulators Make Moves to Approve Cultivated Meat

In light of Australia’s recent steps towards approving cultivated meat for sale, researchers from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) have analysed the Senate Inquiry into Definitions of Meat and Other Animal Products to assess the politics of alternative proteins.

Led by Dr. Hope Johnson from the QUT School of Law, along with Melbourne Law School Professor Christine Parker and QUT researcher Dr. Brodie Evans, the study notes that many stakeholders were initially concerned that meat alternatives posed a threat to animal agriculture. However, they eventually concluded that alternative proteins were “not necessarily in competition with meat and dairy”.

Both industries saw the labelling of meat alternatives as a key issue. The study notes a “lack of consumer complaints about the labelling of meat alternatives to the ACCC”, supporting the results of a survey which found that 96% of Australians have never been confused by the labelling of plant-based products.

Despite this, the study recommends the use of qualifiers for alternative proteins — for example, “plant-based burger”. The use of meat-like terms such as “burger” and “sausage” for alt proteins is supported by most stakeholders, despite attempts by the Australian Red Meat Advisory Council to restrict their use.

cultivated quail
© Vow

Regulation for sustainability claims

Stakeholders also expressed a desire for improved regulation of nutrition and sustainability claims, pointing out that the latter are largely unregulated by Australian food law. Australian regulators are now calling for public submissions on their proposal to approve Vow’s cultivated quail, which the company hopes to launch this year.

“Australia is shaping up to be the third country in the world, behind Singapore and the US, to approve cultivated meat,” said Dr. Johnson. “Some other countries may well go another way. For example, Italy recently took a different direction by introducing a ban on cultivated meat. We expect to see more concerns from stakeholders about the potential for cultivated meat products to replace conventionally produced meat and dairy.

“Likewise, the ongoing lack of proactive regulation regarding sustainability claims on food will probably be flagged by stakeholders. The environmental credentials of both meat and cultivated meat are complex to verify and giving the consumer a full picture of all the environmental impacts is difficult on a standard label.”

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