In 2017, McDonald’s added a soy-based vegan burger to the menu in Finland and Sweden. Residents of those countries might have gotten used to ordering fast food veggie burgers at this point, but non-meat eaters across Europe might need to adopt a new phrase instead: “I’ll have one veggie disc with cheese, please.”
The European parliament approved a plan this week that would keep producers of non-meat foods from using meat-related words, according to the Guardian. The ban passed through the agriculture committee with 80 percent approval, but it still has a ways to go, including a vote from the full parliament, member states, and the European Commission. If it passes, though, it’ll be pretty expansive, including the words steak, sausage, burger, hamburger, and escalope (a cutlet like you might find in veal scallopini).
The Court of Justice of the European Union made a similar ruling in 2017, when it established that words like milk, cream, butter, and cheese were only to be used for animal products.
This fight is playing out worldwide; in the United States, naming regulations for plant-based alternatives have been influenced by lobbying from the meat and dairy industries. The highest profile naming fight played out in Missouri, but other states have followed suit with similar bans. As the Washington Post has reported, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association calls closer federal regulation of plant-based meat alternatives one of its top goals for the year. It’s not just meat and dairy either: a recent “truth in labeling” law in Arkansas also regulates the word “rice,” in response to the growing popularity of products like cauliflower “rice.”
That’s not the case in Europe, according to French parliament member Éric Andrieu, who said that the decision is motivated by a push for transparency for consumers. “The meat lobby is not involved in this,” he said. “People need to know what they are eating.”
As unappealing as it might sound, the Guardian wrote that “veggie discs” has, in fact, been floated as a new name for plant-based burgers. There could be a catchier phrase—but according to Andrieu, producers will have to get creative. “We felt that steak should be kept for real steak with meat and come up with a new moniker for all these new products. There is a lot to be done in this front, a lot of creativity will be needed,” he said.
No matter what they’re called, vegans are probably still stoked to grill up some seitan logs, soy chunks, and veggie discs.