Bold new pork ads take on plant-based meat substitutes, nail truth in advertising

(File photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for New York Magazine)

While it won’t be confused with pork-barrel politics, an ad campaign by the National Pork Producers Council could certainly be called truth in advertising.

The NPPC launched a digital ad Monday in the Des Moines International Airport in response to plant-based products violating labeling laws, Ag Web reported.

The ad proclaims: “Pork: You can’t make it from plants unless you feed them to a pig first.”

The ad featuring this slogan, along with another that declares, “Pork: It comes from a pig, not Silicon Valley,”  will run through Feb. 10.

Jim Monroe, NPPC assistant vice president of communications, said the campaign is an attempt to ensure a level playing field with the competition.

“We’re doing this to raise awareness for our position on alternative protein labeling. We welcome competition as long as it’s on a level playing field,” Monroe stated. “The ads are designed to reflect our position during the heavy traffic period at the Des Moines airport before, during and after the caucus.”

Earlier this month, Dan Kovich, NPPC director of science and technology, released a statement citing laws that prohibit the manipulation of words to confuse the public, according to Ag Web.

“What’s impossible is to make pork from plants,” Kovich said. “This is a brazen attempt to circumvent decades of food labeling law and centuries of precedence. Any adjective placed in front of the word pork can only refine it, not redefine it. It’s not pork. It’s not pork sausage. It can’t be labeled as such.”

The industry is adamant that plant-based and cell-cultured products that mimic real meat face the same regulatory requirements as livestock agriculture, which included truthful labeling standards.

Kovich said that there’s often a blurring of the lines in the marketing of plant-based products.

“Packages often go so far as to have pictures of animals on them or use words such as ‘beefy’ in large type (much larger than any indication that the product is plant-based),” Kovich wrote in Meat of the Matter. “Many of the products are trying to occupy the best of both worlds, with their manufacturers making broad claims about sustainability and taking issue with animal agriculture while trying to mimic meat on store shelves.”

There are three key issues NPPC is advocating for, AG Web reported, understanding the products and how they are produced, ensuring they are rigorously regulated and making sure they are labeled in a way that makes it clear to consumers how they were produced and what they contain.

“Plant-based alternative protein products cannot be called pork, and cultured products cannot be called pork without qualification making it clear how they were made,” Kovich stressed. “Consumers can choose pork sausage or bacon for breakfast, or they can choose an ‘in-vitro produced pork food product.’”

After all, a slab of “in-vitro produced pork food product” sounds just as enticing as a slab of bacon, no?

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Tom Tillison

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