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Amid the pandemic, our grocery carts runneth over with fake meat

Illustration for article titled Amid the pandemic, our grocery carts runneth over with fake meat
Photo: DAVID MCNEW/AFP (Getty Images)

Even if they’re a long way off from considering a fully vegetarian or vegan diet, more Americans seem open to trying plant-based “meat,” and even incorporating it into their meals on a more regular basis. That was already true prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, but now U.S. customers are purchasing Impossible and Beyond meat in greater volume than ever before. From March 2 to May 2 of this year, grocery store sales of plant-based meat skyrocketed by 264%.

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According to Vox, there are two major reasons for this meteoric rise. For one thing, coronavirus-related disruptions to the supply chain are causing meat shortages in some areas at unexpected intervals, meaning that fake meat is as close to meat as some consumers can get while out on their periodic grocery store run. For another, for any consumers who are aware of these meat shortages might be thinking about what’s contributing to them—the tightly packed conditions at meat processing plants that leave workers at higher risk of contracting and spreading disease—and this could potentially make real meat products seem less appealing as shoppers peruse the aisles. (The production of meatless meat allows for more distance between workers, ostensibly reducing their risk of contracting COVID-19.)

Impossible Foods is taking advantage of the shift and announcing huge grocery store rollouts to keep up with demand. Vox reports that the company will soon be selling its products in 1,700 Kroger-owned locations nationwide.

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“More Americans are dining in and that’s what’s driving the acceleration in retail grocery store sales,” said Impossible Foods CCO Rachel Konrad. “March was by far a record for retail production for us, and April blew past it by a big margin.” (Hey, just like pizza.) But even beyond its use in home cooking, the product is thriving at outlets like Burger King, which is seeing increased drive-thru service as its dining rooms remain closed throughout the country.

Grocery shopping habits have changed in all sorts of ways since the start of the pandemic. Maybe fake meat is an item that will stick around in our carts long after supply chain disruptions even out once more.

Marnie Shure is editor in chief of The Takeout.

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DISCUSSION

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During the quarantine, I bought a bag of frozen hamburger patties and a few packages of frozen veggie burgers (Morningstar Farms Grillers Prime and then Boca All American, because they were cheaper), all of them were roughly the same cost per patty, slightly less than a buck a patty. Honestly, the beef burgers weren’t so much better than the faux-meat ones - I’m sure if I bought a higher quality of beef or non-frozen beef it would have probably been transcendent - but for my needs of “I am getting sick of legumes, I need a burger” all of them hit the spot equally well, and 2 of them had dietary fiber while lacking cholesterol.

I am still tempted to turn my 7lbs of dried soybeans into veggie sausage and burger patties, though.