A senate inquiry is to be held into food labelling laws that will investigate if terms such as 'meat-free mince, sausage made with plants' and 'vegan bacon' pass muster.
Queensland Senator Susan McDonald is driving the issue, and made the announcement last night at an event in Canberra run by the Parliamentary Friends of Red Meat advocacy group.
The former butcher-shop owner said it was up to makers of non-meat products to come up with their own distinct terms instead of trading off long-established names of animal proteins.
"There are intellectual property issues, and in our export legislation we have clear definitions of meat being the product of an animal, but there are gaps domestically," she said.
"The industry invests hundreds of millions of dollars each year to develop and enhance the intellectual property and benefits of red meat in Australia, and it's important that these investments are protected.
"Just like winemakers wanting exclusive use of some wine names, I feel strongly that our Aussie red meat industry should have sole use of product names that have meant only one thing for centuries."
Red Meat Advisory Council chairman, John McKillop, said graziers had had enough.
"It is a national disgrace that highly processed plant-based protein made from imported ingredients are allowed to be labelled as Australian meat," he said.
"Every day 434,000 proud farmers, livestock transporters, meat workers and butchers work together to provide families with natural, nutritious and healthy meat.
"Through droughts, floods and fires, our industry has always been there to supply the safest and highest quality meat to Australian consumers.
"These highly processed, unnatural plant-based products are increasingly seen as a health risk and are in no way similar to the red meat produced by Australian farmers.
"The brand and reputation of natural beef, lamb and goat has been built over generations and is now being denigrated by companies that are deliberately trying to use piggyback marketing to sell an inferior product.
"Infringing a trademarked brand to sell another product is unlawful in Australia and so should be the use of our industry's collective owned meat category brands if a product is not from the flesh of an animal.
"The Australian red meat and livestock industry strongly welcome the announcement of a parliamentary inquiry into meat category branding.
"The status quo needs to be fixed as it is currently failing consumers and Australia's 434,000 meat and livestock workers.
"A parliamentary inquiry will provide a voice to the hundreds of thousands of Australian families that collectively own their industry's meat category brands.
"These voices need to be heard to address the blatant attempt to misappropriate our industry's category branding for highly-manufactured plant-based proteins, which don't support Australian livestock producers, processors or retailers."
The inquiry will investigate the economic effects of non-animal protein marketing on Australia's red meat industry, the legality of using livestock imagery on vegan products, and the health benefits of non-animal protein manufacturing processes.
"If you prefer tofu over T-bone, then you go for it but forget the ethics of eating animal products, this is about protecting a highly valuable industry and also providing a clear distinction between the real thing and the alternatives so consumers know exactly what they're getting," said Senator McDonald.
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