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Meat-Free Product Sales Are Rising as Meat Consumption Falls

3p Contributor | Wednesday October 17th, 2012 | 15 Comments
Employees at The Valley Hospital in New Jersey celebrate Meatless Monday

By Kristie Middleton

With the annual Food Day approaching, it’s hard to overlook the fact that people seem to be thinking more about where their food comes from every day. Food Day, which falls on October 24, is a nationwide celebration and movement for healthy, affordable and sustainable food, and a day of awareness about these issues couldn’t be more important.

What we eat has deep implications, and in the last several years, socially responsible businesses have started taking an active role in addressing those implications. Many are creating policies to improve the welfare of animals in their supply chains, reducing greenhouse gas emissions or purchasing only from suppliers that pay workers fair wages. And there’s one area that’s gaining traction by the day: meat reduction. Some savvy businesses have noticed a decreasing demand for meat and are creating new products to meet every meat-free need. Others are using the popular Meatless Monday program to improve employee wellness or to encourage customers to eat healthier by cutting out meat one day a week.

Eating Our Veggies

Ezra Klein of the Washington Post said earlier this year,

“Meat eating in the United States is going out of style.”

Klein was referring to USDA statistics that projected U.S. consumers would eat 12 percent less meat in 2012, than just five years ago.

What’s the driver for this decline?  USA Today says many Americans are reducing meat consumption out of concern for their health and the environment as well as rising meat prices. A Harvard study that came out this year found that replacing red meat with high-protein plant sources was associated with living a significantly longer life. And according to the United Nations, meat production is one of the top contributors to climate change, due to its high carbon dioxide and methane emissions and vast use of water, land and fossil fuels. People also want to prevent animal cruelty. Factory farms, where the vast majority of our meat, eggs and dairy come from, have a notorious reputation for inhumanely confining millions of animals in crates and cages where they can barely move.

Whatever the reason, diets are changing:

A 2011 poll from food industry research and consulting firm, Technomic, found that 21 percent of U.S. college students are limiting meat consumption.

Polling by Bon Appétit Management Company, which operates dining services at hundreds of colleges nationwide, found that the number of college vegans at its facilities had doubled between their 2005-2006 poll and their 2009-2010 poll, and the number of vegetarians rose by 50 percent.

And in an announcement that made national headlines, last year the University of North Texas in Denton opened the nation’s first all-vegan dining hall, resulting in a 30 percent rise in voluntary meal plan sales.

Meatless Momentum

Started during WWI by the U.S. government as a resource-saving measure, and revived in 2003 by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Meatless Monday promotes replacing meat with non-meat foods one day a week for our health and the health of the planet.

The program has mushroomed in recent years with support from big names like Oprah Winfrey—who implemented it at Harpo Studios—and Sodexo, a food service provider that’s participating at more than 2,000 hospitals and colleges nationwide. The Humane Society of the United States strongly supports Meatless Monday as part of its advocacy for eating with conscience, or practicing the Three Rs: reducing consumption of animals; refining dietary choices by switching to products that meet high animal welfare standards; and replacing animals in the diet with plant-based options.

Restaurants are also getting in on the game by offering new and expanded meatless options. A cover feature in Nation’s Restaurant News proclaimed “Veggie-heavy brands see growth in sales, popularity with consumers” and concluded with restaurant executive Aviv Schweitzer’s thoughts: “Is the country ready for a national vegetarian chain? I think it’s a fact; it’s not really a question anymore.”

This surge in demand has caused new meat-free products to pop up regularly. Beyond Meat, a new product financed in part by Twitter founder, Biz Stone, was so popular that a California grocery store sold out its entire week’s supply in just 48 hours. Another meat alternate that emulates the taste and texture of meat, Gardein, is now sold in the frozen section of Target stores nationwide.

Whether to reduce their carbon footprints, their waistlines, or the number of animals suffering on factory farms, one thing is clear: people are eating more meat-free meals than ever. And whether it’s corporate cafeterias participating in Meatless Monday to help keep healthcare costs down, restaurants adding new vegetarian options to menus, or manufacturers developing new meat-free products, savvy companies can bite into this market opportunity in a major way.

Kristie Middleton is Corporate Outreach Manager at The Humane Society of the United States. Follow her at twitter.com/kristimiddleton.


▼▼▼      15 Comments     ▼▼▼

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  • Josh

    Great piece, Kristie. Meatless Monday is definitely more popular than ever and it’s an easy way for folks to incorporate more humane and healthy foods into our diet. When doctors, nutritionists, sustainability advocates, and humane organizations are backers of such a campaign, you know it’s important for many important reasons.

  • Paul

    Very nice to see this important progress for animals, the planet and our health.

  • Mark

    It’s tough to argue with this, there are a lot of good reasons to eat less meat. It just makes sense. That must be why so many people are eating less. The more this information gets out there, the more people realize how much sense it makes, and how much fun it is to try new things.

  • Terri

    All I have to say is people are smart and I love Facebook and Pinterest for all this information we have access to. Hey everybody for more truth my two favorite documentaries if you have not seen them are Forks Over Knives and Earthlings. I wish you ALL a happy healthy and joyful life. Oh, if you are interested in yoga, I like Jivamukti Yoga. Blessings to ALL.

  • Colleen

    Its great!… I live in Australia and it is good to see that some supermarkets are now stocking more vegan and vegetarian friendly products.

  • http://www.facebook.com/veganforlife Janet Weeks V

    The best decision of my life was becoming vegan. For animals; For Earth; For humanity! xox

  • Dean Durant

    Meat Eaters should really hunt for their meat, and not buy it at a grocery store:
    http://EverybodyShouldHunt.com
    Can I post a URL?

  • Ursula2007

    I have never eaten better in my life since I gave up meat, dairy and eggs! The combinations are endless, so tasty, and don’t leave me feeling like a sleepy blob after I eat.

    • http://twitter.com/VanAnimals VanAnimals

      Cool!!!

  • David B

    Great piece on an important issue! So glad to see businesses recognizing that these decisions benefit their bottom line, in addition to the planet!

  • Nancy Davis

    This is a great start the less meat we consume the better health for all of us more grain to feed the hungry,and less pollution in transport and most important for me is less factory farm animals abused and tortured:)

  • Emmet

    “When threatened, all beings fear for their lives; life is precious to all. Therefore we do not kill, nor cause others to kill.”

    • http://twitter.com/VanAnimals VanAnimals

      beautiful.

  • Eleanor Boyle

    Great article. Evidence has been building for years against current methods of meat production, and current amounts of meat consumption, but only a minority of people have been willing to commit to becoming vegetarian. Now people are realizing that they can be part of the solution even if they eat meat — by scaling back significantly on their consumption, supporting producers that make meat sustainably and compassionately, and urging our governments to support only clean and kind livestock production. That’s what I demonstrate in my book High Steaks: Why and How to Eat Less Meat. http://www.newsociety.com/Books/H/High-Steaks.
    Thanks again for this article.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CR7EG5DB3BJM7KXBG4QWLMPZWM GracielaS

    Excellent article. Very happy to see this trend.