October 20, 2014 by Tess Riley
When asked to investigate the fascinating world of meat substitutes for the Guardian recently, I was keen to get stuck in.
Well versed already in the arguments around meat consumption and its contribution to climate change I may have been, but I knew little about the world of vegan beef, fishless filets (sic) and the mycoprotein Quorn, far less its implications for climate change.
As a non-meat eater for the majority of my life, I (like so many) had presumed that these meat-free products were aimed at me – a substitution for something that I did not miss whatsoever but which, I guessed, companies had created just in case I and my fellow veggies did. Indeed, many of my meat-free friends do consume meat-free foods and there are now products out there so realistic that taste tests between meat products and their equivalents have baffled meat and non-meat eaters alike.
However, as my latest Guardian article on meat substitutes demonstrates, I’m just one very small part of the target market. Why, for example, just aim your product at the 3% or so* vegetarian and vegan population of the UK when you have the other 97% of the population to think of too – from occasional meat-eaters to die-hard carnivores (well, omnivores).
The climate change implications of significantly reduced national and international meat consumption are significant. While I may be quite happy to ditch meat without needing an alternative look-alike, and support farmers who produce meat ethically and sustainably as we work towards transitioning to a low-meat diet across the board, I’m starting to wonder if these these meat-free products couldn’t be a key tool in helping us curb the dietary demands meat consumption currently places on the planet.
Have a read of my Guardian article here and let me know what you think…
*3% is the latest government figure, although Mintel research out earlier this month estimates that this figure is now more like 12%, with that figure rising to 20% for 16-24 year olds.