Plant-based meat makes its way to the mainstream market


Sophia Liu ('24)

As veganism grows more popular in the U.S., so do vegan products such as plant-based meats.

Have you ever watched one of those YouTube videos where someone tried smoking a watermelon to make it taste like ham, or use seasoned rice paper to make “bacon”? It seems as though the craze for plant-based foods has overtaken the United States these past few years. As Americans become more environmentally and health conscious, veganism is on a steady climb. According to Plant, 6% of consumers in the U.S. are vegan, which is a 5% increase from 2014.

With the growing popularity of veganism comes the growing popularity of vegan food products. According to the Good Food Institute, vegan products grew 27% in sales this past year. Among these products are plant-based meats that companies such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat sell. You might recall Impossible Foods from their collaboration with Burger King to launch the Impossible Whopper, a plant-based burger, in 2019. Vegan meat substitutes currently have the second-highest revenue out of all categories of plant-based food products on the market, sitting behind milk and before frozen meals. According to a table from the Plant Based Food Association, their sales have grown by 45.3% from 2019 to 2020.

Many mainstream restaurant chains haven’t hesitated to join the craze for plant-based food products. KFC, McDonald’s, Panda Express, Starbucks, Taco Bell, and Chipotle now all sell plant-based meat products. KFC debuted their plant-based Beyond Fried Chicken, a collaboration with Beyond Meat, in early January, while Chipotle also kicked off the new year by introducing their own plant-based chorizo. Many more non-vegan restaurants are also now selling vegan options. Additionally, metropolitan cities like Los Angeles and New York are seeing an increase in vegan restaurants.

So why has veganism been slowly making its way to be mainstream? One could say it’s due to our country’s growing awareness of climate change and poor industrial practices. Going vegan would decrease greenhouse gas emissions, increase carbon in the atmosphere, prevent decreasing biodiversity, and increase the amount of clean drinking water. Many of these benefits lie in the current meat industry. According to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization, the production of meat and dairy accounts for about 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Transitioning to a more plant-based industry would save many precious natural resources that the meat industry drains, such as land and clean water. Meanwhile, planting more vegetation would also release carbon into the air to help fight off global warming. The appalling conditions on these animal farms have also begun to spread, with pictures of chickens being crammed together into pins. People have found sympathy towards them.