Meat alternatives in the age of COVID-19

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The recognition and popularity of both plant and cell-based meat alternatives are growing as consumers re-evaluate their food choices in the face of growing options, driven by industry players like Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods and Memphis Meats. Covid-19 has impacted the delivery capacity in global food supply chains, increasing the price and reducing the range and availability of certain products, in some cases including meat. Can this period create an opportunity for alternative meat products to emerge victorious as a quicker-to-process, cheaper and potentially healthier alternative to traditional meat for the
longer term?

In a few short months COVID 19 has managed to change every facet of our daily reality and everything we took for granted. We now crave the day we can watch the football at the pub with friends, go on a date with somebody without a hazmat suit or enjoy group exercise that isn’t virtual.

Had we had the foresight in 2018 that a pandemic could threaten us in 24 months’ time, perhaps people would have and spent a cool $6,000 on a “doomsday prepper” food kit or some other outlandish mode of preparation. The contents of such a kit would feed a family of four, for a year, on 600 cans of freeze-dried and dehydrated fruit and veg, pastas, grains and pulses among many other staples.

The conclusion here being that the ‘post-apocalyptic’ diet was, according to at least one major US wholesaler, mainly meat-free. But what about in the here and now of COVID 19? We are already starting to see global concerns about food security and our near-term future. At the beginning of April, some of the worlds’ largest food manufacturers wrote an open to letter to world leaders calling on them to: maintain open trade, ensure access to nutritious, affordable food for all and invest in sustainable food production. Could one solution to a potential food security crisis be the cultivation of alternative meat (plant based or otherwise)? In Beyond Meat’s most recent trading update, the CEO Ethan Brown noted that with recent increases in beef prices, the business would aim to compete with the industry on price, to “make more inroads with the consumer”. The current landscape shows a mixed picture but one that could be a happy ending for the meat alternatives sector.

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