Dear Cattle Ranchers — Don’t Take the Impossible Bait
Impossible Foods newly launched campaign “We are Meat” is worthy of only one response. Ignore it.
Is anybody getting bored with Impossible Foods trying to pick a fight with meat producers? I sure am.
Here’s their first national ad campaign — “We Are Meat.” Seriously? Oy.
Impossible Foods Launches 1st National Ad Campaign
'We Are Meat' aims to build awareness of flagship burger
For Impossible, the path to reaching their goal of meat being “obsolete by 2035” is apparently by marketing their product as, um, meat. Call me crazy, but there seems to be a hefty dose of cerebral disconnect in this strategy.
I think this marketing campaign has a much more insidious ambition. I think Impossible is trying to pick a fight.
We all know everybody loves an underdog and Impossible Foods has positioned itself as just that. They are the “Bad News Bears” versus the Big, Bad Beef Behemoth. Never mind that Impossible Foods is valued at more than $4 billion and CEO Pat Brown himself is estimated worth several million, but an average U.S. rancher earns just shy of $56,000 a year.
Impossible Foods is the little guy taking on “the man.” Whoever that might be. Or so they’d like consumers to fall for. I mean, believe.
Proclaiming “We are Meat?” That reeks of a “poke the bear” strategy.
Impossible CEO Has a History of Picking Fights
Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown already has the “poke the rancher” playbook well in hand. Just a few years ago, this was the man that called regenerative ranchers the “clean coal of meat.”
That raised some serious hackles. Will Harris of White Pasture Oaks, probably the best-known regenerative rancher in the U.S., responded with a press release and invited Brown to visit his ranch (last I heard, Brown never took Harris up on the offer).
Civil Eats published a story on the “feud.”
Impossible Foods and Regenerative Grazers Face Off in a Carbon Farming Dust-Up | Civil Eats
Meanwhile, Impossible Foods also recently published the results of an LCA-one also conducted by Quantis-on the most…
By the time it all shook out, Brown got himself a lot of market share at a key time in the scaling up his business by instigating that very public spat.
In the meantime, meat and dairy producers, upset about plant-based alternatives to meat, cheese, milk, butter, etc., have launched legal campaigns attempting to restrict animal-based product names for plant-based alternatives. You can’t call it “butter” unless it’s made from dairy. So goes the argument. (Apparently conveniently forgetting that peanut butter has been called peanut BUTTER for how many years now?)
In the European Union, they are debating a rule that would prevent vegan products from using “dairy” names, including prohibiting all use of dairy-related language, packaging and imagery for plant-based foods.
As the European Dairy Association told Food Navigator, “Non-dairy products cannot hijack our dairy terms and the well-deserved reputation of excellence in milk and dairy.” Ugh. Come on EDA, I love the dairy industry, but that’s a little much. Trademarking regulations aside, nobody “owns” a word. (I’d be a lot richer, if that was the case!).
You can try, I suppose. But expect that to blow up in your face, as it has.
Oatley, a Swedish-based oat milk producer, has had a field day “milking” (groan) the issue. They released a campaign in response pithily called “Are You Stupid?” All the ads are brilliant. This one cracked me up.
You win this round, Oatley, you win. I still don’t think you’re anywhere near as sustainable (or nutritious) as dairy but pour me a glass of ice-cold glass of oat milk and I’ll humbly enjoy a toast to your marketing brilliance and sense of humor.
But Impossible doesn’t have the luxury of a pending government ban to pit their “underdog” marketing tactics against. So, they are doing the next best thing, laying bait and hoping to catch a live one.
No, Impossible’s Best Efforts Won’t Change the Definition of “Meat”
As somebody that works with words for a living, the idea that an advertising campaign could change a society’s definition for a term as well-ensconced as the word “meat” is, well laughable.
People know what “meat” means. I won’t bother to bore you with the definition.
Honestly, in this scenario Impossible has set themselves up to be the patsy. Assuming animal agriculture is smart and could turn the tables on them. Use Oatley’s campaigns for inspiration. How about a few tongue-in-cheek commercials questioning what is “meat” in the “We are Meat” campaign?
Frankly, Oatley already produced THAT commercial as well.
Focus on the Positives in Animal Agriculture
The fact of the matter is, plant-based alternatives are a growing market share (predicted to be worth $12 billion but 2025), but they are still a tiny portion of the meat industry’s $2 trillion global market share.
Impossible Food’s market share soared during the pandemic. And so did sales of beef, poultry, pork and lamb.
Meat purchases and confidence at record highs
PUBLISHED ON WASHINGTON - Americans are buying more beef, pork, poultry, and lamb than ever as increased time at home…
Beef, dairy, pork, chicken and eggs — pretty much ALL meat products — are predicted to see increasing global market share. Why? Because growing global populations are expected to go hand-in-hand with emerging economies and urbanization. And what happens when the citizens of developing nations get more money? They spend it on more high-value nutrition — aka meat, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.
Meanwhile, meat producers are continuing to make strides in sustainable production.
No more methane in cattle emissions? We know how to do it. Seaweed feed additives being the most promising technology. Now, it’s just a matter of scaling up. (Funny, Brown says the same thing about plant-based protein!).
Australia's CSIRO fast-tracks climate hope with cows and seaweed | Darigold
It's a move that scientists and investors believe will significantly decrease cattle's carbon footprint (while…
Grass-fed cattle ranchers are collaborate with the Audubon Society to restore habitat on one million acres of working grasslands for birds. When was the last time Impossible Food’s partnered with an NGO to improve the environment? I guess they’re too busy buddying up with Burger King. And Disney parks.
There is Nothing to See Here but Plant-based Protein
I know a very smart attorney (full disclosure, my husband!) whose favorite strategy in responding to attacks is no response.
That nasty, threatening letter or pissy email? Ennh. Just ignore it, he tells me. When you respond, you give power to their argument and credence to their words. By simply ignoring it, there is no fight to be had. Plus, it drives the other side crazy and they will often undermine themselves in increasingly ludicrous attacks. Ignore those too!
On the other hand, once you engage, they have some thing to latch onto and shake until it’s dead. Sort of like my rat terrier, killing rodents.
“Beware of barking at underdogs; don’t fight with people who have nothing to lose.” — Dory Previn
So, my two cents for cattle ranchers, the beef industry and animal ag in general — laugh at it. Focus on your positives. Ignore it.
Or, as the brilliant animal ag and greenhouse gas professor Frank Mithloehner from UC Davis posted on his Twitter feed —
Did you enjoy that piece? You might enjoy this one on the always popular topic of, cow farts.
Cow Farts Are Not the Problem
Cows could be a climate change solution — if we take the science seriously
Or, this piece on the role of farmers in reversing climate change.
Farmer Georgie is a Pacific Northwest-based agricultural writer and journalist. Reach her for freelance content marketing needs at firstname.lastname@example.org.