Meat-Free Product Sales Are Rising as Meat Consumption Falls

This post originally appeared on TriplePundit.com

Employees at The Valley Hospital in New Jersey celebrate Meatless Monday

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 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 GHG 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 meat with high-protein plant sources could reduce mortality rates by as much as 11 percent. 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, vegetarian eating is on the rise:

A 2011 poll from food industry research and consulting firm, Technomic, found that twenty-one percent of U.S. college students are limiting meat consumption, sticking to a vegetarian or vegan diet, or eating meat only occasionally.

Polling by Bon Appétit Management Company, which operates dining services at hundreds of colleges nationwide, found that the number of college vegans had doubled in that four year period, 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 20 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.

Restaurants are also getting in on the game by offering new 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 exec 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.

Chile soup

Chile soup is one of my dad’s specialties. The spicier, the better. If you have roasted chiles, it’s quick and easy to make and paired with tortillas, makes for a filling meal. My parents sent me home with a bag of Anaheim peppers on my last visit which I roasted and froze. Here’s how:

To roast the peppers, broil for about 20 minutes on 400 then turn, broil for another 10-20 minutes or until the skin is blistered. Remove from oven and put in a sealed container, sealing the lid to trap the moisture and heat. Once they’ve cooled enough to touch, wearing gloves remove one pepper at a time, remove seeds, and peel. Chop into one inch pieces.

Soup Ingredients:

2 Tablespoons canola oil or water
1/2 yellow onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can diced tomatoes
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1/4 cup roasted, peeled Anaheim pepper, or to taste
2 potatoes, cubed into 2 inch chunks
6 cups water and a bouillon cube or 4 cups water and two cups of vegetable broth
1 package Boca crumbles, Morningstar Grillers Crumbles, Yves Ground Round, or TVP
Salt to taste (optional)
1 Tablespoon minced fresh cilantro (optional)

Method:
Sauté the onion in the oil or water on medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté one minute more. Add the tomatoes, cumin, peppers, potatoes, and water or broth and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft when pierced with a fork. Add the crumbles and simmer for 5 more minutes. Add salt to taste and served garnished with cilantro.

Serve with fresh warm tortillas. I recently got this tortilla press which makes my tortillas more consistent in size and shape, plus it’s a little less of a mess to clean up than rolling them out on the counter. Just make a ball of dough, add some flour, and press!

 

The Virtual Gestation Crate: A Window into a Pig Factory Farm

An issue that’s been getting a lot of attention these days is the confinement of breeding pigs in gestation crates. The crates are the size of pigs’ bodies preventing them from moving more than a few inches back and forth and from even turning around at all. Recent months have seen some of the world’s largest companies publicly declare they want an end to gestation crates in their supply chains. Still, it’s a complicated issue and difficult for people to grasp what life might be like for those pigs to suffer in barren cages for years on end—until today that is.

AnimalVisuals.org released “The Virtual Gestation Crate,” an online virtual simulation that allows users to view life from the perspective of a caged pig. Users can see the pigs in front of them and beside them. They can stand up, chew the bars of their cages, sway their heads from side to side, and lie down. But that’s about all. With realistic depiction and audio from a Mercy for Animals investigation of a pig farm, The Virtual Gestation crate gives people a window into a world factory farmers would like to keep closed.

Check it out for yourself:

New Mercy for Animals Investigation reveals cruelty at Idaho Dairy

Earlier this week Mercy For Animals released the results of another undercover investigation into an Idaho dairy operation. The investigation, like every investigation the organization has conducted, documented egregious cruelty to animals at the hands of workers.

This investigation revealed workers – including management – viciously punching, shocking, jumping on, and beating animals to deliberately inflict pain. One cow – too sick to stand on her own – was tethered by the neck with a chain and dragged on the ground behind a tractor. Workers punched the animals in the face and slammed cage bars into their heads, causing them to recoil and panic in terror.

Three workers, including a manager of the dairy, have been charged with criminal cruelty to animals and since the investigation, Wendy’s announced it would be severing ties with the dairy. According to the Columbus Dispatch, “The Dublin-based fast-food company is three steps removed from Bettencourt — Wendy’s buys cheese from a supplier that gets its cheese from a factory that makes its cheese out of milk from the Idaho dairy.” And Kraft Foods, which the dairy supplied, has announced it will require its suppliers to not dock dairy cows’ tails.

Tail docking is a common amputation practice, which is typically done without anesthetic and which removes up to two-thirds of a cow’s tail. In addition to the pain of the procedure, it inhibits cows’ ability to use their tails to shoo flies. The American Veterinary Medical Association opposes tail docking of dairy cows, saying, “Current scientific literature indicates that routine tail docking provides no benefit to the animal, and that tail docking can lead to distress during fly seasons.”

Paella with vegan shrimp and sausage

On a trip to Spain in 2002, I recall eating a beautifully presented paella. I also recall trying to explain to the waiter that we did not want shrimp, fish, or sausage in it, which to him was simply incomprehensible. This colorful paella was made with vegan shrimp from Sophie’s Kitchen and Field Roast brand vegan sausage. These days, there’s almost nothing you can’t find in a vegan version.

Sophie’s Kitchen got its start because the owner was looking for an allergen-free alternative to seafood for her daughter. There are other good reasons to avoid eating sea creatures as well: like overfishing, which, according to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization , “is putting heavy pressure on the world’s shrimp stocks … and causing significant environmental harm.

Available in Whole Foods and other large natural stores, Sophie’s Kitchen’s products are all-vegan and free from most common allergens, like soy.