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Fake Meat Is on the Rise, But Will It Ever Replace the Real Thing?

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Americans aren’t always the best at putting Earth first on their list of priorities when it comes to choosing what they eat, even if they do care about the environment.

JENNIFER WALTER: Plant-based alternatives are experiencing an uptick in sales that started even before the coronavirus pandemic hit. But in March, sales of meat alternatives jumped another 264 percent — not only due to popularity, but an increase in distribution as well… So, is this fake meat’s big break? The high sales rates look promising, and the products could help keep shelves full when beef and turkey burgers are low in stock. But food industry experts such as Mark Lang, an associate marketing professor at the University of Tampa, say this once-in-a-lifetime set of circumstances likely won’t cause the average person to fully give up on meat.

“Meat eaters are still the largest part of the population,” he says. A 2018 Gallup poll found that only 5 percent of adult Americans identify as vegetarians — a 1-percent drop from a previous poll in 1999. But that doesn’t mean meat eaters aren’t willing to compromise. Rather, plant-based meat companies might have to find better ways to meet their potential customers in the middle instead of encouraging them to give up animal products altogether…

Unlike meat production, which results in enormous outputs of greenhouses gases, plant-based alternatives have been shown to be easier on the environment. About 14.5 percent of all human-produced greenhouse gas emissions comes from animal agriculture, thanks in part to the methane produced by ruminant animals such as cattle. A 2019 study in Science found that dairy farms emitting the smallest amounts of greenhouse gases still created 36 times more pollution than the average farm that produced peas…

Helping the environment is a central part of the marketing for Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods. Both companies say making a positive impact on climate change is a central part of their mission. But even though this goal would seem naturally appealing to any climate-conscious consumer, Americans aren’t always the best at putting Earth first on their list of priorities when it comes to choosing what they eat — even if they do care about the environment…

Lang suspects the era of fake meat is still very much in its early stages, despite the current high sales of plant-based alternatives. Right now, current marketing tries to sway customers to make a “switch” to plant burgers, which could alienate some consumers who aren’t gung-ho about giving up meat completely… Meat is a deeply rooted part of American culture, and it’s not easy to get people to permanently change their eating habits, even if it’s touted as a move for the greater good. SOURCE…

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