Iowa Pork Producers consider possible threat from plant-based ‘Impossible Pork’ (audio)

LAS VEGAS — A plant-based product called Impossible Pork debuted at a trade show in Las Vegas this week, and officials with the Iowa Pork Producers Association are considering any potential threats.

Just as the dairy industry has targeted soy milk products with legal action for using the word “milk,” Pork Producers consumer information director Joyce Hoppes says Impossible Pork could face a similar fate.

“We do have concerns with that because it’s not meat, it’s not pork,” Hoppes says. “Just putting an adjective or a phrase in front of the word only refines it and does not redefine it. We want to make sure that it’s not misleading to consumers because it’s not pork.”

Iowa is the nation’s leading pork producer and the industry contributes $7.5 billion to the state’s economy each year. Hoppes says the association wants to make certain hog farmers — and their products — are treated fairly in the marketplace. Hoppes says, “We want to make sure consumers enjoy the great flavor of pork and enjoy all of the nutritional values and benefits you get from eating the real meat, eating pork.”

An Impossible Whopper appeared on Burger King menus nationwide last year, a similar plant-based beef substitute. Other fast food chains have since followed suit by offering non-meat burgers, and BK is now testing an Impossible Pork sausage. It’s likely only a matter of time, Hoppes says, before Iowans are offered more vegetarian pork-substitutes in restaurants and grocery stores.

“We don’t stand in front of and oppose choices and options for consumers but we hope consumers will stay with the real thing,” Hoppes says. Some consumers will sample the lab-grown cuisine, while others will avoid these products, referring to them as Frankenfoods.

While they’re billed as completely safe, Hoppes says she has some concern for the health of consumers who eat Impossible Pork. “That’s something else that the pork industry is looking at, is wanting to make sure that all of these products are looked at, that the food inspection service also is looking very closely at all of them, making sure that they’re safe and that what they say in their marketing of these products is valid and truthful.”

Reports say the primary protein in Impossible pork is soy. Coincidentally, Iowa is also the nation’s top soybean producer.

Audio: Matt Kelley interview with Hoppes.  3:35.