As veganism and vegetarianism continues to rise and grow in popularity, replacing the consumption of meat with near identical plant-based alternatives that are not only healthier, but much better for the environment and, in my experience, most of the time taste better, one question continues to come to my mind.
Is eating meat becoming obsolete?
It’s no secret that health experts and dietitians have gone on for years about how switching to a vegetarian diet or even just having less meat is much better for you. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, there is evidence that a vegetarian diet provides people with lower blood pressure and low rates of type 2 diabetes as well as hypertension compared to meat eaters. Overall, consuming less or no meat helps combat heart disease as well. That said, a vegetarian diet isn’t automatically healthy. There are still greasy fries and plenty of chocolate and potato chips to tempt you, so a vegetarian diet isn’t an automatic solution to weight loss. However, many dietary constitutions, including the American Diabetic Association, say that a vegetarian or vegan diet that properly follows health guidelines, ensuring that you are getting your nutrients and protein, is a healthier option and lifestyle overall.
Despite its growing popularity only recently, veganism has been a lifestyle for a long time. November 1st is recognised as World Vegan Day, launched in 1994. In the US, sales of plant-based foods as an alternative to animal-based products had risen by around 17%, and US consumers who have now started to identify as vegan have gone from 1% to 6% between a period of three years according to GlobalData, roughly accumulating to around 19.8 million people. Globally, the percentage of people adopting vegan or vegetarian based diets is estimated to be around 11%, which comes out at around 858 million people worldwide.
What has helped make vegetarian and vegan lifestyles a lot easier is the continued effort and growth of the plant-based meat alternative industry. Most common and popular, especially in the US, is Beyond Meat and Imp ossible Foods, launching an Impossible Burger in Burger King restaurants in the US to national success, with the chain spotting an increase in customer return and satisfaction. Right now, the alternative to meat is made using a range of plant-based products including soy, mushrooms and a whole range of different vegetables and fruits just to name a few. The future will most likely see a rise in laboratory grown meat, with people already working towards essentially growing real genuine meat without the need of an animal’s death, similar to stem cell growth. Plant Based Products are currently a $14 billion industry, expected to only continue to rise within the coming years. What was once considered a trend and a mainstream joke is now a viable lifestyle, adopted by millions of normal people and plenty of celebrities ranging from actors to musicians. One example is Julien Solomita, partner to YouTube sensation Jenna Marbles, who operates a vegan and gluten-free cooking channel on the YouTube platform, boasting 2.25 million subscribers.
But it’s not just the lure of a healthier lifestyle that entices people to turn vegan or vegetarian. There is also the globally pressing matter of climate change. On average, cattle farming contributes around 32% of greenhouse gasses according to Scientific American. Interestingly, they’ve calculated that the production of just half a pound of beef is equivalent to driving 9.81 miles in a standard vehicle, which translates to around 7.4 pounds of CO2 emissions, and that the US, Canada and Australia are some of the countries in the world where Beef Consumption are highest. The Meat Industry is one of the top contributors to Global Warming, alongside Fossil Fuels. According to the BBC, 2019 is on course to be recorded as one of the top three hottest years compared to temperate recordings dating back to 1880.
So if vegetarianism or veganism is not only healthier for you, free from animal cruelty and better for the environment but is also proving to be a better alternative to meat in terms of price and taste, then it begs the question:
Is eating and consuming meat becoming obsolete?
According to insight company Kantar, more plant-based meals are being eaten by non-vegans, with 92% of plant-based, meat free meals having been consumed by non-vegans in the UK. As plant-based foods continue to get more funding and research, and only continue to grow in popularity, it won’t be surprising that by the mid-century, the consumption of meat will have drastically reduced and that a plant-based or meat alternative will be a much more popular choice in restaurants.
If you ask me, given the sheer number of alternatives for meat, and the success of them, I would say that meat is nearing its end. However, meat consumption is still one of, if not the, best and easiest source of protein. That said, plant based foods, not just meat alternatives, aren't far off.
I encourage you and anyone you know to explore vegetarian and vegan foods. Since turning vegetarian myself, I’ve not only opened my palette to a whole range of new flavours, but also incorporated a lot of healthier options into my food. Previously, I hated all vegetables and couldn’t even comprehend eating a salad. Now I can, and I can also enjoy the fun exploration of deciding just what counts as a salad. As well as this, I frequently recommend vegan restaurants to my friends and family, regardless of if they’re a vegan or not, because the food is so much better than other standard restaurants in my opinion. Some of my friends have taken up my recommendation and have come back to say they really enjoyed the food, even though they really believed that they wouldn’t, and I’ve even had my mother, who comes from a generation stereotyped for mocking such lifestyles, come back to me and tell me she thinks the Gregg’s Vegan sausage roll to be much better than the normal one. Of course, there are other mainstream restaurants and chains that offer good vegetarian and vegan foods, such as YO Sushi, who offer two alternatives for a Katsu Curry (tofu and pumpkin), and Frankie & Benny’s or Wagamana, who both boast vegan menus. As well as the taste, there’s also a small part of you that feels good for turning away from meat and choosing to have an alternative, doing your small part for the planet and for yourself. Even if you just cut down on meat instead of cutting it out entirely, it can make a difference.
In short, it’s worth a try. Next time you’re out for a meal, try a vegan dish and see what you think. There are hundreds of different ways they’re made with hundreds of different ingredients, so if you don’t enjoy your first time, don’t despair. Keep trying new and exciting places until you find what’s right for you, and who knows? Maybe you’ll make that full transition into becoming a vegan or a vegetarian.