1661880222236 Incogmeato2

Shut Up and Be Dinner

Aug. 31, 2020

Would you let an animal persuade you to eat something else?

The faux meat space is becoming increasingly crowded, so it’s no wonder that Kellogg is making an extra effort on behalf of Incogmeato, the line of plant-based meat analogues from its Morningstar unit.

The effort consists of having “animal influencers” declare on social media how good Incongmeato products are. Sammi Chicken, Prissy Pig and Buckley the Highland Cow will shill for Incogmeato burgers, sausages and patties, presumably telling us how grateful they are for not being ground up to make them. Sammy, Prissy and Buckley are actual creatures, dressed or Photoshopped in Incogmeato’s trademark green bowler hat and bib.

This is the latest variation in what I call sentient-prey anthropomorphism: Giving the power of speech to animals who are at risk of being consumed.

I guess if I were more of an intellectual, I could trace sentient-prey anthropomorphism to ancient Greek legends or the Bayeux Tapestry or some damn thing. But as far as I can tell, it’s rooted in old Warner Bros. cartoons. Many of these feature what you might call “sentient wiseguy prey”: animals pleading or arguing with, or outsmarting, the animals or people who want to eat them. Think Bugs Bunny tormenting Elmer Fudd, who never gets to enjoy his fresh wabbit stew.

The flipside of sentient wiseguy prey is “sentient complicit prey,” or animals that want to be eaten. If you use a loose enough definition, this applies to pretty much any animal mascot based on the food served in a restaurant or processed by a company. Think of those pigs you always see in the logos of barbecue joints. Perhaps the most absurd manifestation was the French ad I saw of a hog with a big knife in its trotter, smiling as it sliced up its own belly. As you might imagine, it’s an easy concept to ridicule.

The Incogmeato campaign brings a sort of twist to sentient wiseguy prey: Animals who try to convince you to eat something, anything, other than themselves. The most prominent example is Chick-Fil-A’s ads that feature cows with signs begging us to “eat mor chikin.”

Will Incogmeato’s gambit work? Would you take the word of a talking animal that something else tastes better than it does? Personally, as a dedicated carnivore, my response would be “Tell it to Dr. Doolittle. Now hop on the grill.”

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