How to get more people to eat fake meat in 2021

Plant-based meat at the 3rd China International Import Expo in Shanghai, November 2020
Plant-based meat at the 3rd China International Import Expo in Shanghai, November 2020
Photo: Zhang Hengwei/China News Service (Getty Images)

We’re several years into the infiltration of plant-based meat’s into our grocery stores, fast food chains, and collective consciousness. But for all the good things we have to say about the Impossible Whopper and Jimmy Dean’s new meatless breakfast sandwiches, many of us haven’t made fake meat products a regular part of our daily existence yet, either in the form of our usual Dunkin’ order or our typical grocery haul. As companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods seek to change our long-term purchasing patterns, they need to know what customers are and aren’t willing to settle for in the move away from meat.

According to a survey of 2,000 Americans commissioned by Sprouts Farmers Market and conducted by OnePoll, 63% of people, on average, would be willing to switch to a plant-based diet, if and only if the products met certain criteria. First and foremost, it has to taste the same as the animal-based equivalent, or at least on par with the flavor they’re used to. Next, the cost has to be the same as what they pay for meat: many meatless alternatives are working against an established reputation of being the splurge item in people’s grocery carts. Third, the texture has to be the same as meat, which interestingly was listed as a whole separate consideration from the taste. Respondents also expect the plant-based stuff to be as healthy as real meat, which is notable specifically because people aren’t demanding that it be healthier than meat—this might mean that people are growing wise to the fact that they shouldn’t think of Beyond and Impossible as miracle health foods, a mistaken impression that many people had just a couple years ago. Finally, respondents said that they’d make the switch to fake meat if it were “more ethical.” While the jury is still out on how much better plant-based meat is for the environment, it’s true that the production of beef is a huge source of greenhouse gas emissions, and you are, at least, doing cows a solid when you opt for Beyond tacos. Bottom line: Whether you buy alternative meat products or not, simply skipping the meat for a few meals a week can have a number of positive impacts, and it’s a habit worth considering.

On the flip side, the poll also asked people why they might be hesitant to make a habit of plant-based foods. Some noted that these products were hard to find, others cited taste, texture, and cost—but some people simply refuse to eat it because “I believe it’s just a fad/trend.” Are they right? Time will tell.

Marnie Shure is editor in chief of The Takeout.

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Genuinely curious here - how is the jury “still out” on whether beef or fake beef is more environmentally friendly?