WASHINGTON — Responding to the results of its own nationwide survey regarding consumer attitudes toward chicken and plant-based alternatives, the National Chicken Council (NCC) has asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) for clearer guidance and enforcement of misleading product labels.

NCC’s survey, conducted from April 27 to May 8, included 1,164 American participants — 767 who regularly consume meat and animal products, 352 flexitarians, 125 vegetarians and 75 vegans. The results indicated four in five Americans want clearer product labeling for plant-based products.
 “When shopping for chicken to grill this Fourth of July weekend, people shouldn’t have to waste time at the grocery store dissecting whether they’re about to purchase real chicken or an imitation product, let alone discover they’ve wound up with the wrong product when they get home,” said Tom Super, NCC senior vice president of communications. “This study shows there is overwhelming support for clearer packaging and separate store placement for imitation chicken, and that the term ‘chicken’ should be reserved only for food products made from the actual animals.”

According to the survey, one in five Americans have mistakenly purchased plant-based products, believing them to be chicken meat. Roughly three quarters of participants believed “meat” should only refer to products made from animals.

NCC said even among consumers who have not mistakenly purchased meat-alternatives, there is support for clearer product labeling. 

Additionally, 62% of chicken consumers along with 80% of vegetarians and vegans feel chicken meat and plant-based chicken should have their own distinct grocery sections at the store to help eliminate product confusion.

NCC also noted that consumers preferred authentic chicken over plant-based products for taste, affordability and cooking versatility.

NCC has asked the FDA and the USDA to issue clearer guidance on naming plant-based products and to prioritize enforcement for products marketed in a misleading manner. NCC has also submitted official comments and the survey results to FDA Docket 2021-N-0553, “Labeling of Plant-Based Alternatives to Animal-Derived Foods.”

The comments point out NCC’s concern of misbranding under the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act. NCC also points to the Poultry Products Inspection Act for support, which prohibits the labeling of products in a misleading way as well as marketing food under the name of another.