A commercial aiming to disparage plant-based meat ran locally in the Washington, DC area during this year’s Super Bowl, sparking backlash from several groups. The 60-second commercial—created by a group that calls itself “The Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF)”—features young spelling bee contestants attempting to spell ingredients in “synthetic” meats. After struggling with the words, a young boy spells “bacon,” to imply that the processed meat product is easy to spell and, therefore, somehow superior to plant-based meat.
Michele Simon, Executive Director of trade group Plant Based Food Association (PBFA), took issue with the misleading ad, explaining that The CCF is a known malicious organization aiming to disguise itself as a consumer watchdog group. “Rather than compete on a level playing field, the meat industry is using a notorious front group to smear innovative food companies making meat derived from plants. The CCF is receiving untold millions of dollars from the meat industry—that much we can safely assume because that is how the group operates,” Simon said, noting that CCF previously accepted funding from the tobacco industry. “But we don’t know exactly who the funders are because they would rather remain secret and pay others to do its dirty work.” Prior to the Super Bowl, CCF also took out a one-page ad in The New York Times to “educate” the public, using the same misleading information about plant-based meat. “The smear campaign by the meat industry against plant-based foods is the height of hypocrisy. Meat from animals is far from the ‘one ingredient’ found on the package of beef or pork or chicken in the grocery store,” Simon said. “Ironically, the group behind this shameless campaign has also criticized similar fearmongering when paid to do so by other sectors of the food lobby. Pay no attention to the hired guns fronting for an industry feeling threatened by changing consumer tastes. All that matters is the marketplace, and there plant-based foods are winning.”
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In response to the CCF commercial, plant-based meat company Impossible Foods created its own video wherein CEO Pat Brown tasks a young girl to spell “poop” and explains that, while fecal matter may not be on the ingredient list for meat, “there’s lots of poop in the places where pigs and cows and chickens are killed and chopped to bits to make meat.” Brown’s claim is supported by a 2015 consumer report that found the presence of fecal contamination in all 458 pounds of ground beef researchers bought from 103 grocery, big-box, and natural-food stores in 26 cities across the country.
Photo Credit: Impossible Foods