Let’s start with this plain fact: Tyson’s new “plant-based” products are not plant-based. Nope. Both of the two products Tyson is launching under its new Raised & Rooted label have animal ingredients in them. Their nuggets (as in chicken nuggets) contain egg whites and their burgers contain angus beef.
I bring this up because journalists are already referring to these products as “plant-based” even though they’re not. Maybe that’s because Tyson themselves called them “plant-based” in their misleading press release.
Look at how these products are being marketed, because it’s shady AF. For starters, on the packaging for the nuggets it says in big and bold: “Nuggets made with plants!” – since when did egg whites come from plants? And how about the packaging on the burgers? Where I have seen that before? Oh yeah…
Now, I can already hear people saying: But Ari, isn’t your complaint kinda like what the meat industry is trying to do us when they tell vegan companies they can’t use words like meat, milk, cheese, etc.
No, it’s not.
First, words like “meat” and “milk” have been used to describe plant-based foods for hundreds of years. (Coconut milk, anyone?) Second, when vegan companies produce plant-based meats or cheeses, they are largely trying to recreate foods that have been traditionally made with animal products from plants, and they proudly say so. There is no deception going on, no inference you’re getting actual meat or milk. In fact, that’s the point. Plant-based products are clearly labeled and it’s obvious to consumers what’s happening. There’s actually been research conducted that proves shoppers are not confused.
By stark contrast, Tyson, the largest meat producer in the country, is actually using vegan messaging and visual branding to promote products that still have animal ingredients in them. Not only is that deceptive, it’s just wrong.
But I believe there’s something even more sinister at play here. While I’ll concede that both Tyson’s new nuggets and burgers contain less animal ingredients than traditional nuggets or burgers – and yes, meat reduction is a good thing – these products are Tyson’s responses to the successes of actual plant-based products like the Beyond and Impossible Burgers. So, instead of truly being innovative and introducing a 100-percent plant-based product, America’s largest meat producer is still trying to push its tired and cruel animal products.
These new products let Tyson have their bloody cake and eat it too. They’re using veganism’s soaring popularity to continue selling their main source of revenue: animal products.
And speaking of animal products, just in case you forgot, undercover investigation after undercover investigation has revealed just how Tyson treats the animals in their factory farms and slaughterhouses. It’s nothing short of horrific. See for yourself:
While I generally see big business venturing into the world of veganism as a sign things are moving in the right the direction, this latest Tyson development has definitely given me pause. Yes, it’s great if people are taking steps to reduce their consumption of animal products – and if these new Tyson products help people do that, good – but using vegan messaging to sell animal products is not OK. Period.
Tyson’s nuggets may be “made with plants,” but they’re also made with animal cruelty. Albeit less of it.