This month The UN published advice that suggested people should eat less meat in order to slow the effects of climate change. While it isn’t the first organisation to make this link, it brings into focus the potential benefits of reducing our meat consumption.
In such a high growth market, its unsurprising to see a wealth of vegan startups offering the chance to change the world through food, but can they really live up to expectation?
The Benefits of Eating Less Meat
As discussed, the environmental benefits of eating less meat have been well documented, with research showing that meat eaters can reduce the carbon emissions of their diet by 60 percent as a consequence of switching to solely vegan food sources.
Alongside this, a vegan diet is thought to be cheaper on your wallet too, costing around $750 less per annum.
So why aren’t we all vegan?
Traditional Views on Veganism
Although veganism has been slowly growing around the world, it has typically remained an alternative lifestyle — research found that vegans comprised of only 2 percent of the US population.
Veganism has suffered from a ‘preachy’ perception, which focuses on animal welfare and shame tactics to convert the masses. However, in today’s society where consumers are increasingly detached from the source of the food they eat, these messages haven’t worked.
Food manufacturers and retailers are becoming increasingly aware of this fact, with research showing that over 60 percent of consumers prefer the term ‘plant-based’ to ‘vegan’.
According to the research, rather than the stark ideological choice that veganism presents, consumers view plant-based products with positive connotations, choosing instead to focus on the health and environmental benefits they offer.
The Plant-Based Future
Aided by millennials, and the popularity of plant-based social media trends, the market continues to grow exponentially.
In contrast to the brands of the past, the plant-based startups of today are engaging with the masses through products and messaging that are more palatable.
Beyond Meat, are one of the best known plant-based startups, and specialise in creating ‘meats’ that mimic the look, taste and cooking performance of traditional animal meats.
The company has successfully used brand ambassadors, such as sports stars Kyrie Irving and Deandre Hopkins, to attain a somewhat cult social media status.
This brand recognition has paid off, with the company engaging in collaborations with Subway and Dunkin’ Donuts, as well as reporting a first-quarter profit of $10.8 million in its first earnings report since going public on May 1 2019.
The potential benefits of these startups are clear to see, and by appealing to the mass market they are set to change the way our diets impact the planet for the better.
By creating a growing appetite for plant-based options, they ensure that we will use less water, less land and emit fewer greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere in order to feed ourselves. However, this isn’t without potential pitfalls.
In a world where plant-based foods reign supreme, land that was previously used for livestock farming would inevitably be turned over to arable land. This in turn raises the potential issues of monoculture and chemical use. In the case of palm oil, this was shown to directly cause crucial habitat loss, as well as air and water pollution.
While this is an extreme example, it is one that should be considered, and has led entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson and Bill Gates to champion the use of lab grown meat as an alternative.