I've been a vegetarian for half my life and I have been blogging about crappy vegetarian labelling for a decade. Usually it's a rant about how a seemingly innocuous dish has hidden bone jelly in it - but today I experience the reverse situation.
So, I was in the "veggie snacks" aisle of my local supermarket. I grabbed some tofu bites, mushroom sausages, a bean burger - and then I saw this.
I'm a committed vegetarian, but I'm starting to come round to the meat lobby's point - albeit for opposite reasons.
I was about to grumble at Sainsburys for putting meaty snacks in the veggie aisle...!
Clearer labeling is needed, I reckon. pic.twitter.com/ShG3rVvGSz
— Terence Eden (@edent) July 25, 2019
I was about to go on a tirade about co-mingling of veggie and non-veggie foods when I looked closer.
- BIG thing saying "Sausage"
- Teeny-tiny copy in a hard-to-read font saying "vegan"
How is anyone supposed to think this is anything other than an attempt to trick people into unwillingly buying a veggie-friendly product?
It was only in the course of writing this blog that I noticed the green "vegan" text in the bottom right corner.
And only when proof-reading the post that I spotted another tiny marketing sticker saying it's vegan. Can you find it? Maybe I'm blind to all the advertising on packaging - but I genuinely didn't see it.
Which brings me round to the meat lobby's latest complaint.
It's obvious that the meat market is suffering as people turn away from eating dead animals. And, usually, I'd dismiss their protests as the wailing of a dying industry desperate to stay relevant.
I've lost count of the times I've been in a restaurant in a foreign country, only to find the "vegetable burger" is really "meat burger served with vegetables". And I quite often find myself double-checking with wait-staff that they've understood I want the veggie lasagna. No, not even a little bit of meat, thank you.
"Hur-dur! Why dO yOu eAT ThInGs SHapEd liKE MEAT tHen!?"
I don't. There's nothing inherently meat-shaped about a circle. Or a tube. I eat things which are convenient to slip between two halves of a bun, or easy to pick up with chopsticks.
But as veggie products morph to be more palatable to carnivores, this confusion is going to grow.
Tried the @MMountainsFoods burger. They make some bold claims about it being "unlike any other veggie burger".
It is nice, but not remarkably different from most other ones I've tasted.
The beetroot juice in the middle makes it look a bit more like rare meat. Which is… fun? pic.twitter.com/b9CkJA0f4o
— Terence Eden (@edent) May 12, 2019
A "bleeding" burger doesn't appeal to me - but obviously does to some people who feel threatened by the thought of being caught not eating meat.
So, do we need to change the language or insist on better descriptions? Here's a selection of "fake meats" I bought from the same aisle (I was hungry!) - they're all unambiguous in their provenance, I think.
On the other hand, I recently reviewed some Phoenix Drumsticks - a vegan chicken substitute.
I quite like the idea of eating Unicorn Burger, Dragon Ribs, and Sphinx Sausage.
Language changes. Burgers don't have to come from the Hamburg region of Germany, and they don't inherently have to be made of cow. Tastes change as well - I'm no longer the odd-one-out at a barbecue.
But while that change is occurring, I think it is important not to mislead people into eating something they'd rather not.
Oh, and the Fry's Vegan Sausage Rolls tasted bland, stodgy, and rather grim. Just like their meaty brethren.