When I stopped eating meat back in 1995 there were no plant based meats to be found. I mean literally, they just didn't exist. As the years went on, a few came on the market. Tofurky became our staple every Thanksgiving. Lightlife veggie dogs showed up and gave us something new to try. Then there were vegan deli slices, veggie burgers, veggie meatballs, and on and on. Within the last few years there has been an explosion of plant based meat options. And it's a great thing! But it's not because of vegetarians or vegans...
Plant based meat options are now found all over the country because of meat eaters. You read that correctly, it's because meat eaters are willing to eat them. They are the reason that there are so many options today and why they are now found in mainstream grocery stores, rather than the old hippie-style health food stores we used to have to drive miles to get to (and hey, I love hippies, so there's nothing ill meant by that comment).
Vegetarians get upset when they see plant based meats sold in the meat department. Or when plant based burgers are grilled on the same grill as meat burgers. It's important to remember, even if it stings or is disappointing, that we veg people are not their target market. I know, that's hard to take sometimes, because we want to believe the movement is happening all for us, and that all these products were made for our kitchens.
While we get to join in on the party, we have meat eaters to thank for the proliferation of plant based meats and vegan products. Seriously!
It's only because meat eaters are willing to eat plant based meats that they are now found in mainstream stores and restaurants everywhere. Case in point, Gallup released the results of their polling on the topic in January 2020. First, they report that only 3-5% (depending on the poll) of the people polled said they never eat meat. That's virtually how vegetarianism in American has been for decades. We make up 3-5% of the population and that hasn't changed, even with all these new products being available everywhere. But the cool thing is that meat eaters have reduced how much meat they are eating.
- 40% of Americans have tried plant based meats
- 60% of those who have tried plant based meats say they will eat them again
- 97% of Americans still eat meat
- UBS projects that the plant-based meat industry could balloon to $85 billion in sales by 2030 from $4.6 billion in 2018, with 28% percent annual increases
- 23% of Americans reported eating less meat in the last year (this is huge!)
- 90% of them report that their meat reduction was due to health reasons (okay, but I wish it were for the animals)
- 35% say they have altered their recipes to swap out animal meat for plant based meats
- 5% self identify as being vegetarian or vegan (same percent for the last two decades)
Interestingly, both of their reports were released in the same day, and they seem to contradict each other when it comes to the percentage of vegetarians and vegans. One says that vegetarians and vegans make up 5% of the population in the US, and the other one says that 97% of Americans eat meat (which would leave 3% not eating it). However, the 5% population of vegetarians in the US is consistent with everything I've ever read on the topic.
It's unlikely that everyone in the country will go vegetarian or vegan. It's beyond unlikely. It won't ever happen in our lifetime. But the good thing here is that more meat eaters are cutting back on their meat consumption. Plus, they are willing to eat plant based meats, which makes them readily available around the nation for any vegetarians and vegans who may also want them.
I hear vegetarians and vegans complaining about plant based meats. They whine about how they are prepared, where in the store they are sold, whether or not they are healthier options, the ingredients used, and more. But the bottom line here is that every time a meat eater reaches for them, and they are reaching for them, it's a win-win for the animals and environment! So I'm glad all these plant based meat products exist and hope they keep pumping out more.