4 Jul 2018

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters bites over fake meat burger

6:52 pm on 4 July 2018

Politicians have beef with Air New Zealand over its promotion of a meat substitute 'Impossible Burger.'

Winston Peters

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

They claim the national carrier is cutting farmers' lunch, by promoting a product that has the potential to threaten New Zealand's $9 billion red-meat sector.

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters said he would not eat a burger with lab-made meat, particularly if there's one with the real thing available.

"I'm utterly opposed to fake beef," he said.

Mr Peters said the farming industry was made up of New Zealand taxpayers who wanted to ensure they get the top end of the product market offshore.

"Our airline should be its number one marketer."

The meat-free Impossible Burger

The meat-free Impossible Burger Photo: Supplied / Impossible Foods

New Zealand First has called Air New Zealand's promotion of the synthetic protein Impossible Burger a slap in the face to New Zealand's red meat sector.

MP and Southland Farmer Mark Patterson said he felt personally affronted by the campaign.

"It's a bit tone deaf from Air New Zealand. They're promoting in an unprecedented manner, a foreign company that's developing product that's a real threat to the $9b red meat sector which the regions are really reliant on.

"It goes against their charter and guiding principles that say they'll support New Zealand companies."

The Impossible Burger concept is an US one, the fake meat created in a lab by a company in Silicon Valley. It's sold in almost 2500 restaurants there.

Air New Zealand is now promoting it as an option for Business Premier customers on its flights from Los Angeles to Auckland.

In a statement the airline said it's offered beef or lamb burgers on that same menu since 2011, serving enough to feed the equivalent of every resident in Christchurch and Hamilton during that time.

And it said it spends more than $1 million each year on New Zealand beef and lamb for its in-flight meals.

Even though the carrier is known for its quirky ad campaigns the head of Beef and Lamb New Zealand, Rod Slater, said rural New Zealand would feel slighted by this one.

"If I was a farmer working day and night, with millions of dollars invested and up to my eyes in debt, [or] just dealing with the situation, I'd actually be pretty upset and I actually would feel very much let down by our national carrier."

National's agriculture spokesman Nathan Guy joined New Zealand First in expressing disappointment.

"We produce the most delicious steaks & lamb on the planet - GMO & hormone free. The national carrier should be pushing our premium products and helping sell NZ to the world," he wrote.

However, the Green Party said a move away from eating so much meat would ultimately be a huge plus for the planet as it would help cut emissions, lead to less intensive farming, and improve animal welfare.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor has a different view on the matter entirely.

He said it could ultimately benefit the sector if people did like the product that was been rushed off the grill.

"Customers will ultimately make the decision as to whether they like this burger.

"In fact it may be a really good positive thing for the meat industry if people taste it, don't like it and eat real meat."