Plant-based protein is tied to a number of positives for both people and the planet.
As Unilever Food Solutions (UFS) points out, “swapping meat for plants reduces saturated fat, and increases the fiber and vitamin content of dishes. Studies show that this leads to reduced risks for diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.”
The environmental benefits are there as well. Plants require fewer environmental resources like space and water which UFS also shares can offset climate change.
Even further, plant-based meat is a food source that vegetarians and animal lovers can feel good about eating.
And plant-based meats have proven to have even more benefits throughout the span of the pandemic.
When the first few weeks of COVID-19 lockdowns began, popcorn, pretzels, and pastries topped grocery store purchases. As the lockdowns persist and COVID-19 continues, there’s a new leader topping the list- plant-based meat.
Plant-based meat has already been gaining traction in recent years. In fact, according to the Good Food Institute (GFI) and the Plant-Based Foods Association, plant-based food and beverage sales were about $5 billion in 2019.
“Meatless meat” sales were already on an upswing, and it’s apparent that the pandemic has accelerated them. Now, the GFI and the Plant-Based Foods Association expect plant-based food and beverage sales to have double-digit growth through 2020.
The demand for “meatless meat” exploded starting in March, during which sales of fresh meat alternatives surged 206% in the first week of March alone, rising to 279% the week ending on March 14, reports Nielsen. And that was just at the beginning of the pandemic.
In the 13 weeks ending May 30, sales of fresh meat alternatives were officially up 239.8% compared to last year, according to Nielsen statistics.
What’s the cause of this sudden rise in sales? Well, if there’s anything that could quickly shift public opinion, it’s a pandemic. And, a point that both plant-based meat companies and animal rights activists have emphasized, is that coronavirus originated from animals.
But that isn’t the only aspect that’s driving the sales of plant-based meat. U.S. News reported that “roughly half a million people work in the nation’s meat processing industry, and crowded and unsanitary conditions have prompted concerns about worker safety during the coronavirus pandemic.”
And by April 27th, 4,913 meat and poultry plant workers in 115 plants in 19 states had been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and 20 people had died, according to the report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This has resulted in temporarily idling several processing plants. And, as reported in Food Dive, “even though most plants are running at some capacity, producers still need to euthanize animals that would have been slaughtered for food because there is no space for them on farms or in plants running at lower output rates.”
Josh Balk, Vice President of Farm Animal Protection for the Humane Society, told Bloomberg that “Covid is shining a light for consumers to start evaluating their own choices and whether or not they want to continue to buy meat.” And he’s right.
The numbers are already on plant-based meat companies’ side. Kearney’s study showed that 83% of consumers took sustainability into consideration when making purchases in April. And that number is only increasing as the pandemic continues.
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