News broke this week that alternative meat company Beyond Meat filed a trademark application for “Beyond Milk” with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. What the news failed to report is that the company did the same for “Beyond Cheese.” Impossible Foods already has the trademark of “Impossible” for non-dairy milk and milk products, too.
Let’s discuss this. First off, for a point of clarification, plant-based butter is margarine and plant-based leather is plastic. Plant-based cheese is imitation cheese and has been around for a very long time. It refers to low-cost processed cheese in which the milkfat, milk protein or both are partially or wholly replaced with non-dairy ingredients, such as corn oil and soy protein. “Plant-based” does not mean “vegan” and neither does “imitation.” Vegan cheese, however, is a type of imitation cheese and should be labeled as such. So, while the dairy industry continues its fight about the use of the word milk on non-dairy white fluids, I think it might be a good time to change battles before things get ugly. It is paramount that every cheese-type product in the market that contains non-dairy fat or non-dairy protein, or both, and describes itself as being cheese, includes the word imitation on the label.
And why? Because “real” cheesemaking is both an art and science. Imitation cheesemaking is just science. Both have a place in our evolving food scene, but we cannot dilute the beautiful art and science of cheesemaking.
I made cheese for three years, from 1990 to 1993 with Kraft. I fully appreciate the importance of timing the addition of cultures and enzymes, managing pH and washing curd, the salting and packing process, and with pasta filata types, the temperature of the cooker/stretcher and the strength of the brine. Like I said, it’s an art and a science.