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  • Writer's pictureMeyrick Consulting

Ethical vegans should not be discriminated against; that’s official.

It also seems that veganism is now mainstream as well as being a philosophical belief. Therefore perhaps we have to ask the question: will 2020 be the year where plant based foods outstrip conventional meat based products and is this the right thing to do?

Can a meat producer really create plant-based foods to rival the real thing?

As a recruiter in the Food and Ingredients sector I talk to many people in the course of a year So my ears really did prick up when I found myself in conversation with the CEO about plant based products. You have to take note when a significant meat product manufacturer is actually developing a plant based alternative. I did wonder whether I had heard him correctly. No, it’s true surely this must underscore the fact that significant dietary change is afoot.

Searching for the ultimate no meat, meaty taste

You may well be asking yourself just why a meat producer would even consider working on the development of a non meat based product. They say there’s no one better to understand just what needs to be done to create the ultimate 'no meat, meaty taste'.

Are we just talking about another shade of hyper consumerism?

Obviously we have to take into consideration the potential for taking a giant slice of the plant based pie is too attractive to ignore. You only need to take a mainstream retailer like Greggs that bravely launched a vegan sausage roll last year. This helped generate a 9.6% Increase in sales. On the back of this success they have now launched a plant based Steak Bake. KFC’s imposter burger is also selling well and McDonalds is following suit. It appears you can't ignore the sound of 600 000 marching UK vegans with open wallets.

Right now meat free alternatives are worth more than £405 million

Tesco’s Wicked Kitchen range has been selling well too and the brand has diversified into producing spices and marinades all targeted at plant based consumers. Tesco have seen more than a 25% increase in their plant-based food sales and it seems the nation’s appetite for this kind of food is still growing. In fact there has been a 19 % increase in the consumption of plant based milk since 2018 and 1 in 3 Brits have amended their meat consumption. In fact meat free alternatives have risen to £405 million so why wouldn’t all manufacturers embrace this change?

I think this focus on veganism is both fascinating and concerning in equal measure.

If we all veer towards plant based meals what impact will this have for the dairy industry as one example? However, will this be the time when the dairy industry innovates and transforms itself? Isn’t it time they too embraced change?

Maybe additional competition will be a good thing, especially post Brexit?

Will plant based products be the UK’s USP? It’s a thought. Yet I can’t help wondering what will happen to the UK countryside if we stop producing so many head of cattle. After all, farmers have been leading the way in producing climate friendly food, according to Stuart Roberts of the NFU. He says farmers are even aiming to be net zero by 2040. He is keen to spread the word that not all meat producers globally shares the same carbon footprint. If meat is grass fed we have the opportunity to ‘support the transition to regenerative farming systems’ according to Patrick Holden, Director of the Sustainable Food Trust. He says that the fertility of the soil needs to be rebuilt to be free from the intensive farming of the recent past; eating more grass fed lamb and beef would help this. It’s certainly something to consider in our rush to become vegan to save the planet. Surely it would be good to shop more responsibly? I am just thinking aloud

photo Charles G

All farmers are equal but some are more equal than others

After all, it would be easy to dismiss such claims if you are swayed by the plant-based argument. Holden says that farming land in the UK is two thirds pasture, and of course, these lands form a significant part of carbon capture. This is called the soil carbon bank. Therefore eating grass fed lamb or beef that is produced in the UK might well form part of the solution. It also reduces food miles. So isn’t it important not to tar every farmer with the same brush and simply abandon meat?

A little of what you fancy does you good...perhaps

Historically, the adage: ‘variety is the spice of life’ was common and maybe it’s something we need to reconsider as we make changes regarding how we live and what we eat. In my opinion, eating less meat and increasing the number of vegetables we consume can only be beneficial. What does concern me is if we do not change our eating habits and simply continue our love affair with highly processed and packaged food, whether that’s plant based or otherwise, not much will change.

Someone once said to me that the best way to remain healthy is to abandon the fridge.

It sounds drastic, but if you think about it, if we ate fresh every day and prepared food from scratch, having bought just what we needed, wouldn’t that make a massive change to the amount we buy and what we waste? I’m not sure if ‘going vegan’, Veganuary etc. is exactly the solution we need. Surely this is a simplistic approach and the arguments are far more complex; what do you think?

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