British Columbia

Field Roast's fake meat has to be tested on real animals

A Washington company has stopped distributing its meatless sausages in Canada because it says it would have to do testing on animals to meet the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's regulations.

Seattle company forced to stopped Canadian distribution because of CFIA rules

Field Roast sausages will be off the menu at Vancouver's Black Lodge Restaurant soon, because the company says it can't meet CFIA requirements, and has stopped distributing in Canada. (Jesara Sinclair/CBC)

A Washington vegan food company has stopped distributing its products in Canada because it says it would have to do testing on animals to meet the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's regulations.

Field Roast Grain Meat Company owner David Lee says a complaint was made to the CFIA by a competitor, saying his labels didn't meet Canadian requirements for simulated meat products.

"Their ruling is that if you make a simulated meat, which they decided that we do, that then we need to also mimic the nutritional profile of an animal meat product."

Lee says meeting the CFIA's requirements would go against his company's core values, because in order to satisfy them, he would have to do testing on live animals.

Any product marketed as simulated meat has to declare a Protein Efficiency Ratio.

Kristin Kowalko eats a Field Roast sausage in a hot dog at the Black Lodge restaurant. (Jesara Sinclair/CBC)

This offers information on the number of amino acids in the protein compared to real meat.

While a number of products, including soy, already have established Protein Efficiency Ratios within the CFIA's guidelines, Field Roast products are made with vital wheat gluten, which doesn't have an established Protein Efficiency Ratio.

Company refuses to test on live rats

In order to sell its products in Canada, Field Roast would have to do its own testing. The test has to be done according to a method outlined by the CFIA, which involves live rats.

Lee says as a vegan company, animal testing isn't an option.

"We're driven to make these foods because we feel very strongly about having compassion for animals," he said. 

"Fundamentally, we're against that."

We're driven to make these foods because we feel very strongly about having compassion for animals. Fundamentally, we're against [animal testing].- Field Roast owner David Lee

Beyond the Protein Efficiency Ratio, Lee says in order to meet the CFIA's criteria he would have to further fortify the products to make their nutritional content more similar to meat.

"They also want us to add chemical supplements and vitamins to our products to fortify them, with the implication that they're not healthy and they're not complete, which we find offensive."

The CFIA told the CBC a spokesperson wasn't available for an interview, but sent a statement via e-mail.

It reads, "The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has notified Field Roast that their products have several Canadian labelling violations.

"Should they wish to continue exporting their products into Canada, their product labels need to be amended to meet Canadian regulations. It is the responsibility of industry to demonstrate that their products meet the criteria."

Local business stockpiling sausages

Vancouver restaurant The Black Lodge uses Field Roast sausages in a number of its menu items.

Owner Claire Wyrostok says the sausages were part of her plans for her menu from the beginning.

"When they became available in Canada was around the same time we were opening, and I got really excited we could be one of the first places to have them," she said. 

Claire Wyrostok, owner of Vancouver's Black Lodge Restaurant, says she will have to re-work her menu when her current supply of Field Roast sausages runs out. (Jesara Sinclair/CBC)

The restaurant is still serving the dogs, because when Wyrostok heard Field Roast would cut its Canadian sales, she placed a large order with her distributor.

"We don't even have enough room to keep them all [in the restaurant], so they're in my freezer at home," she said.

When those run out, it's likely the Black Lodge will revamp its offerings.

"It's a lot of work to re-do a chunk of your menu to make up for a missing product," said Wyrostok. 

She says she's been trying recipes for a similar homemade product, but says the pre-made dogs were key to keeping menu prices low.

"It's hard because for us, anything that we make in house, the staff labour costs go up quite a bit," she said. 

"It's going to be a challenge to find something that we can make, that's good, that's as cheap as [Field Roast] was."

Seeking exemption from Health Canada

Field Roast products haven't been recalled, so the inventory can continue to be sold on Canadian shelves.

Lee says this proves to him it's not an issue of consumer safety.

Lee has applied to the Canadian Food Directorate for an exemption, to be allowed to continue distributing the products in Canada without labelling them as simulated meat.

He says while his products may look like their meat counterparts, they're not designed to taste that way.

"What's kind of separated us from our competitors is that we don't make a fake pork or fake turkey or fake chicken," he said. 

"We're making smoked apple sage or Mexican chipotle."

Lee says the food he sells is only a small part of a complete vegetarian diet.

"[Vegetarians] eat legumes, and we eat kale and we eat quinoa and we eat all these kinds of foods," he said. 

"But they seem to be judging this on the animal meat view, which is that people are going to be eating these sausages every night."