Europe’s “fastest-growing plant-based company” Heura is facing calls for censorship from established meat companies.
Meat producers took umbrage at a recent marketing campaign by Heura emblazoned on a 15-meter billboard in Madrid. The text read “Carne” (which translates to meat in Spanish) and the accompanying image was a plant-based burger.
Heura hacked its own advert to tell consumers that it is facing a legal challenge from the meat industry. It says that its own customers should be the judge of its products’ descriptive authenticity. The plant-based startup is giving away 600 burgers to open the conversation and invites consumers to decide if they are “meat or not”.
Who decides what is meat?
This latest legal challenge is indicative of a growing trend. As plant-based foods continue to gain popularity, established animal-derived food producers are seeking to beat out the competition with legal red tape.
“We do not want to promote a confrontation between the industries. Rather, at Heura we want to be part of the transformation that the meat sector requires. We want to accelerate this transition and we want to do it without leaving anyone behind,” Bernat Añaños, co-founder of Heura said in a statement.
Australian vegan meat brands have also faced unilateral attempts to ban “meaty” terms from appearing on their product labels. Former butcher Senator Susan McDonald proposed censorship because consumers “are confused” by meat-specific terms. (Findings from the University of Technology Sydney this year have disproved this.)
Big Meat regularly claims a monopoly over terms such as burger, sausage, and fillets. South Africa has just passed a law that prevents plant-based brands from using certain terms.
Power to the plant-based people
“We believe that the debate on the meaning of meat should not be in court. Rather, the voice should be the final consumer,” Añaños said.
He added: “For this reason, and after having received a legal requirement from the meat industry, we have decided to hack the billboard and summon the population to try our proposal for plant-based meat so that they themselves can judge whether we are meat or not.”
“There is no law against using the term,” he continued. “The debate goes beyond the name, the billboard. We must focus on the great humanitarian, ethical, and sustainability challenges. At this point one thing is clear, we need to produce better meat, and today plant-based meat is the best solution.”
How to claim a free Heura burger
Consumers can try a Heura burger and decide for themselves if it is meat. Take a snap of the Madrid billboard (to capture the QR code) and then visit either MadMadVegan or Chivuo’s restaurant. Heura asks that the experience is documented on social media using the hashtag #JuradoPopularDeLaCarne (people’s meat jury).