A member of the Swiss People’s Party (UDC/SVP) from Bern has proposed a ban on the use of terms associated with meat products when describing vegetable equivalents. Saveloys, sausages and schnitzel would become terms reserved exclusively for meat products.
The number of vegetarian products in Swiss supermarkets designed to substitute meat has taken off. Coop has introduced many. These products, marked suitable for vegans, and typically made from soya or mushrooms, are good news for those cutting down on or avoiding meat.
Meat industry lobbyists are not so happy. Ruedi Hadorn, director of Switzerland’s professional meat union (UPSV) said: “We have nothing against vegetarians or vegetarian or vegan food. The problem for us is that these products are using names from our industry instead of creating their own.” Hadorn thinks selling vegetarian products with meat terms creates confusion and is even deceptive. He said the term “vegetarian beef” is simply absurd.
Swiss People’s Party member Erich Hess, who plans to take his proposal to Switzerland’s parliament, said: “I firmly believe that selling a consumer a schnitzel without meat is deceptive.” Another elected member, Marcel Dettling from Schwyz, who wants to see the meat industry protected from an explosion of imitations, said: “We demonise meat and then use its name.”
Currently in Switzerland, terms such as vegetarian cutlet are expressly permitted. Terms such as filet of beef, dried meat and saveloys are off limits.
When Coop was asked about its vegetarian pork sausage, a spokesperson for the supermarket, Angela Wimmer, said “It complies with the law” because it is clearly labelled as a product containing no meat. “We haven’t received any customer complaints and do not know of any cases of anyone buying it by mistake” Wimmer told 20 Minutes.
Switzerland’s famous Hiltl chain of vegetarian restaurants has a vegetarian butchery and Rolf Hiltl sees no reason why he shouldn’t be able to sell vegetarian tartare. “There is salmon tartare, vegetable tartare…why can’t we sell vegetarian tartare?” Hilti suggests that rather than a political or legal response, the meat industry should look at innovative business alternatives. “That’s what Moulin Rügewalder, one of Germany’s largest meat processors did with huge success.”
- Processed meats cause cancer, says World Health Organisation (Le News)
- Swiss buy more and more meat across the border (Le News)
Since the World Health Organisation (WHO) categorised processed meat, such as sausages, as carcinogenic, many probably welcome these healthier vegetable alternatives. Vegetarian sausages also tick other WHO healthy diet boxes: they have less saturated fat, something the WHO recommends reducing as much as possible1, and they don’t include red meat, something the WHO has classified as probably carcinogenic2.
In addition, vegetarian bangers have a vastly lower impact on the environment. Producing meat protein requires up to 26 times as much water as vegetable protein, up to 17 times as much land, and up to 7 times as much phosphate3. Add in livestock burps and farts and the environmental toll climbs further4.
Perhaps accidentally buying vegetarian bangers or schnitzel isn’t the biggest risk here.
20 Minutes article (in French) – Take a 5 minute French test now
1 World Health Organisation healthy diet factsheet (in English)
2 Carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat – WHO (in English)
3 Quantification of the environmental impact of different dietary protein choices (in English)
4 Livestock’s long shadow – Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (in English)