French President Emmanuel Macron's Government has decreed that plants can't be called meat ... (Aurelien Morissard/IP3/Getty Images)


Hamfisted Macron moves to placate farmers


France has banned using terms such as “steak” and “ham” for plant protein products.

It is an attempt by French President Emmanuel Macron to regulate meat alternatives as he tries to assuage livestock producers who have been at the heart of widespread farmers’ protests.

Some feel it is an ill-thought-out gesture by the under-pressure leader designed to placate irate agricultural workers, especially in the lucrative livestock sector.

A growing market for plant-based protein products has angered French meat farmers facing a steady loss of cattle farms and stiff competition from cheaper imported produce.

France became the first country in the European Union curb use of traditional meat names for plant protein in mid-2022, but the measure was blocked by an administrative court as being “too vague” and not giving companies enough time to adapt.

The Government published a new decree on February 27, applicable in three months, that bans the use of 21 meat names to describe protein-based products and limits the amount of plant content in products that use certain other terms such as “bacon” and “chorizo”.

Some traditional meat terms, though, including “burger”, were not covered by the restrictions.

Meat industry association Interbev welcomed the move, with its President Jean-François Guihard saying: “It is crucial to maintain a clear distinction between these processed [plant] products and traditional meat products.”

In contrast, French company La Vie, which produces pork-style products from plant protein, said consumers were “not confused” by labelling and that the measure, which only applies to food manufactured in France, would “favour imports”.

The Government had also chosen not to wait for a ruling from the European Court of Justice, to which France’s top administrative court referred the matter after the previous decree was suspended, La Vie added.

A struggling livestock sector has been a major theme in weeks of demonstrations by farmers across the European Union, with tensions spilling over in France when Macron opened the annual Paris agricultural fair.

French farmers, like their colleagues in the rest of the EU, have become increasingly concerned over falling prices, foreign competition and environmental regulations.

The restrictions on using meat names for plant protein forms part of a French Government plan to revive livestock farming, including a tax break on the value of herds.