Factory egg farmers meanwhile align behind HSUS-backed Proposition 12
SACRAMENTO, California––Paul Shapiro, the former Humane Society of the U.S. farmed animal campaigns manager and vegan advocate who resigned in January 2018 amid sexual harassment allegations, is now pushing a product meant to stretch hot dogs, burgers, and meatballs.
A “blend of wheat protein, mushroom, pea fiber and umami extracts, dubbed Albina 100,” according to Elaine Watson of the trade journal Food Navigator, the meat-stretcher was stirred together by Better Meat Company food scientist Adam See, and is to be marketed with $800,000 in start-up investment raised by third partner Joanna Bromley––a relative pittance in the highly competitive food industry.
In tradition of “Hamburger Helper” & haggis
Albina 100 appears likely to reach consumers 47 years after the 1971 debut of “Hamburger Helper,” perhaps the best-known product in the plant-based meat-stretching product category, which can be traced at least as far back as when a Scotsman first stuffed oatmeal into a sheep’s guts to make haggis.
Glenn Hickman, chief executive of Hickman’s Egg Ranch, is a “major investor” in Shapiro’s company, Hickman told Watson.
“If I were in the horse carriage industry,” Hickman said, “I hope I’d invest in Henry Ford. Plant-based proteins are on the upswing, and the Better Meat Company can help serve as a bridge to further mainstream them.”
“Mainstreaming” plant-based protein, though, was possibly first accomplished by growers of chick peas before the dawn of civilization.
Meanwhile, both Shapiro and Hickman have endorsed Proposition 12, placed on the November 2018 California state ballot by an HSUS-led petition drive. Proposition 12, if passed, will purportedly close legal loopholes that have enabled the California egg industry to flout a supposed requirement that egg-laying hens be raised in a cage-free environment, which Shapiro and former HSUS president Wayne Pacelle claimed was part of Proposition 2, approved by voters in 2008.
Pacelle, who resigned from HSUS in February 2018, also amid sexual harassment allegations, is reportedly now advising a campaign for the passage of Proposition 12 waged by Animal Wellness Action, a political action committee registered in May 2018.
Proposition 12 leaves Proposition 2 gaps in language
The California-based Humane Farming Association warned in 2008 that the language of Proposition 2 would allow laying hens to continue to be kept in close confinement, and is warning again now that the language of Proposition 12 is no better.
“Now HSUS is promoting a contradictory measure that would replace the hen housing provisions of Proposition 2 with the permissive guidelines of the United Egg Producers,” Humane Farming Association founder Brad Miller explained in April 2018. “That’s the same egg industry trade association which spent ten million dollars opposing Proposition 2 ten years ago.
“The new measure would explicitly legalize egg industry cages throughout California until, at the very least, 2022,” Miller said. “It would also sharply reduce the amount of floor space required by allowing the egg industry to confine hens with as little as one square foot per bird.”
Central Valley Eggs
While backing Proposition 12, Hickman’s Egg Ranch, also known as Hickman’s Family Farms, is among four corporate partners in developing Central Valley Eggs, described by the Humane Farming Association as “the largest factory-farm complex ever to be built in California.
“Once its $1.2 billion project is completed, the number of hens being raised in California will jump from 12 million when the complex began in 2016 to 22 million hens,” says a Humane Farming Association ad opposing Proposition 12. “That will be more confined hens than any time in decades.”
Hickman’s Family Farms, headquartered in Buckeye, Arizona, is “the largest shell egg company west of the Rockies,” according to the Humane Farming Association ad.
Four million hens in 12 warehouses
“One of its Phoenix egg factories confines four million hens in 12 warehouses,” the Humane Farming Association ad continues. “Lawsuits have been filed by residents who want the operation declared a public and private nuisance. Hickman’s countersued [in February 2018], hoping to gag the residents, only to have its lawsuit thrown out of court.”
The other Central Valley Eggs partners include Opal Foods, Rose Acre Farms, and Weaver Brothers Eggs. Opal Foods, a holding company, controls Rose Acre Farms and Weaver Brothers, the Humane Farming Association ad recounts.
“Rose Acre Farms is the nation’s second largest egg producer with roughly 27 million hens in 17 factories across eight states,” the Humane Farming Association summarizes. “It engaged in —and lost — a 20-year-long battle fighting federal food safety regulations after salmonella was traced to three of its Indiana flocks. More recently, in 2018, it faced a recall of 206 million eggs for possible salmonella contamination after the FDA traced an outbreak” to a Rose Acre laying facility in North Carolina.
“Weaver Brothers Eggs, with eight million hens, is the 12th largest egg producer in the U.S.” according to the Humane Farming Association analysis, also with a history of alleged violations of animal care and sanitation standards.
Shapiro, as author of a 2017 book entitled Clean Meat: How Growing Meat Without Animals Will Revolutionize Dinner & The World, would probably prefer to be best known for popularizing the term “clean meat” to describe meat produced from cloned cells rather than in live animals.
Whether “clean meat” will catch on, however, is in doubt, in view of the combination of investments in cloned meat technology by established meat marketing companies with meat industry-backed litigation and lawsuits which seek to stop the use of terms applied to meat and dairy products to describe rival products that are not of animal origin.
The nation of France and the state of Missouri in May 2018 both adopted legislation prohibiting food product packaging using terms such as “nut meat” and “soy milk,” as allegedly confusing to consumers.
No one buys Tofurky by mistake
The Tofurky company, Good Food Institute, Animal Legal Defense Fund, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri on August 27, 2018 “sued the state of Missouri to stop a law that would prohibit plant-based and clean meat companies from labeling their products accurately and in ways that consumers can understand,” announced Good Food Institute spokesperson Matt Ball.
“Like similar moves to censor plant-based milk labels, this law has nothing to do with consumer protection,” alleged Ball. “Indeed, the Missouri consumer protection agency has no evidence that consumers are confused by the labels of plant-based products. No one buys Tofurky ‘plant-based’ thinking they were carved from a slaughtered animal any more than people are buying almond milk thinking it was squeezed from a cow’s udder.”
“Thumb on the scale”
Added Animal Legal Defense Fund executive director Stephen Wells, “Missouri is putting its thumb on the scale to unfairly benefit the meat industry and silence alternative producers. This law violates various constitutional principles, including free speech – which should be a concern for everyone, regardless of diet.”
Meanwhile, noted Animal Legal Defense Fund spokesperson Natalie Lima, “The largest and third-largest meat companies in the country, Tyson Foods and Cargill, have both invested in ‘clean meat’ companies.”
But will they call their cell-cultured products “clean meat”?
“Cell-based meat & poultry”
Leaders in both the “clean meat” and conventional meat industries on August 23, 2018 agreed in a letter to U.S. President Donald Trump that “Recognizing a shared desire to support innovation and feed the world, moving forward we will use the term ‘cell-based meat and poultry’ to describe the products that are the result of animal cell culture.”
The letter was co-signed by Memphis Meats cofounder Uma Valenti, M.D. and North American Meat Institute president Barry Carpenter.
Split regulatory roles
The letter was sent chiefly to suggest a meeting among White House, USDA, and Food & Drug Administration regulators, along with conventional and cell-based meat industry executives, to negotiate a regulatory protocol for regulating and labeling “clean meat.”
The signatories agreed that the Food & Drug Administration should have the lead role in doing “pre-market safety evaluations.”
Then, however, “After pre-market safety has been established with FDA, USDA should regulate cell-based meat and poultry products,” the signatories agreed, “as it does with all other meat and poultry products, applying relevant findings from FDA’s safety evaluation to ensure products are safe, wholesome, and properly labeled.”