American consumers seem to agree that plant-based meat alternatives are tastier, healthier and better for the environment as meat sales plummet.

U.S. consumers have been gobbling up more alternative, plant-based meats since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. If you look closely, you’ll see it happened even before America’s first reported case of COVID-19.

There’s a smorgasbord of reasons why, says Joe Loria, meat reduction campaign manager for World Animal Protection, a global nonprofit. Those include meat shortages due to coronavirus-related shutdowns at slaughterhouses and increased availability of Beyond Burgers, imitation chicken tenders and other plant-based alternatives at food markets and restaurants.

Biting into a fake steak or other substitute is one of the best ways to fight climate change since intensive animal agriculture is a leading contributor.

Faux meat makers are doing a better job at creating tasty substitutes, with equal nutritional value and high fibre content. Continued sales also can help lower prices in the future, Loria says. He argues that biting into a fake steak or other substitute is one of the best ways to fight climate change since intensive animal agriculture is a leading contributor.

Future pandemics

“Factory farming has the potential to be the cause of a future pandemic,” Loria adds.

Increased demand for animal protein, a rise in intense and unsustainable farming, and the increased use and exploitation of wildlife are among trends driving the increasing emergence of zoonotic diseases like COVID-19. That’s according to a report out this month from the United Nations Environment Programme and the International Livestock Research Institute. A zoonotic disease is one that has passed into the human population from an animal source (COVID-19 is believed to have originated in bats).

World Animal Protection is a global animal welfare organization, with a U.S. base in New York. Loria is based in Philadelphia.

Meat consumption

The United States has one of the highest rates of meat consumption per capita in the world. But red meat production dropped by 18% between May 2019 and May 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Overall, U.S. meat sales are expected to drop by more than $20 billion before the end of 2020.

Per-capita meat consumption is expected to fall globally this year by nearly 3%, according to a June “Food Outlook” from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. That’s the biggest decline since at least 2000, Loria says. It’s also projected by the UN that per-capita consumption of meat in the U.S. won’t return to pre-pandemic levels until at least after 2025.

Supermarket sales

Nielsen reported a 35% jump in April-May sales for meat substitutes compared to the four weeks ending Jan. 18. That was before the first reported case of coronavirus in the United States a few days later.

Consumers are “awakening” to “the detriment of meat” and the reality of “factory farming,” which is controlled by a small number of large corporations and was created around consumer meat demand rather than animal welfare.

So alternative meat isn’t thriving just because of COVID-19 concerns and problems created by sick and dying workers in slaughterhouses, Loria says. Data suggests that since the start of the pandemic, U.S. consumers doubled their purchases of beans and canned foods (and bought plenty of toilet paper). The biggest surge of any category, however, was in plant-based meat, with a 264% jump in sales.

Loria says he thinks consumers are “awakening” to “the detriment of meat” and the reality of “factory farming,” which is controlled by a small number of large corporations and was created around consumer meat demand rather than animal welfare. The smaller companies that produce meat alternatives are more nimble and less susceptible to market bottlenecks like those seen in the meat industry, he says.

For people leery of plant-based meats as not being natural, or more processed than real meat: “Animals raised on factory farms are not natural,” Loria argues. “They’re bred to grow at extreme rates. They are genetically manipulated.” He says the world needs to shift to more plant-based eating and away from intensive farming practices to create a more secure food system that can feed a growing population and be safer for workers, animals and the planet.

“There should still be family farms,” Loria says, adding that World Animal Protection is not a vegan or vegetarian organization. “We’re very much an animal welfare organization.”

Original source: https://www.forbes.com

 

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