Plant-based protein concerns chicken producers

RED DEER — Plant-based protein products made to resemble chicken are showing up in stores and restaurants, much to farmer consternation.

Cattle, hog and supply-managed groups have met to discuss the impact of alternative proteins because farmers in those sectors face the same new competitor, said Michael LaLiberte, executive director of Chicken Farmers of Canada.

Producers at the Alberta poultry conference said these products should not be named beef, chicken or meat. They particularly objected to the name, plant-based chicken nuggets.

However, it is difficult to legally challenge the name, so they are meeting with food service and processors to discuss how these products should be labelled.

“We expect that restaurant and retailers are clear and transparent about nutritional facts. It is important that restaurant and retailers be factual in naming and marketing plant-based products,” said LaLiberte at the poultry meeting held in Red Deer Feb. 25.

Consumer focus groups have attempted to assess what ordinary Canadians know about alternative protein products.

One approach may be to raise the profile of the “raised by a Canadian farmer” brand promoting chicken as a single ingredient source of protein that was raised to specific health and welfare standards.

Negative advertising is the wrong approach, said Benoit Fontaine, president of the Chicken Farmers of Canada.

“Anti-plant based messaging will come across as self-interest.”

Nevertheless, chicken consumption remains strong. Chicken has been the number one meat since it surpassed beef in 2004.

Alberta’s domestic production in 2019 was around 169.58 million live kilograms, an increase of 4.5 million kg over 2018.

Canada’s 2019 production was 1.69 billion live kg, an increase of 37.43 million live kg or a 2.26 percent increase over 2018.

Overall, chicken production, including market development and specialty chicken, was about 173 million kg, an increase of nearly four percent.

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