Insights | Blog
Alternative Meat Opportunity?
In our November 2019 issue of Forefront, I wrote an article on how alternative meat was building momentum to disrupt the $1.4 trillion meat industry. In particular, I wrote that the continued rise in global demand for meat also raised concerns about the environment and other effects, including human health, caused by consumption of meat products from animals.
Since the issuance of that article, we have been hit with a pandemic named COVID-19 that has disrupted our lives in ways many of us have not experienced in our lifetime. It has also provided new opportunities for growth in the alternative meat industry.
It has been recognized that close contact between humans and food animals creates an environment where mutating viruses can transfer from animals to humans. Such is the case with COVID-19, a new strain of virus believed to have originated from a “wet market” (complexes of stalls that sell fish, meat and wild animals) in Wuhan, China. This has caused growing concerns about our food source.
COVID-19 has provided animal welfare and environmental advocates with additional support against the consumption of animals in order to prevent diseases such as COVID-19. Scientists estimate three out of every four new or emerging infectious diseases in people come from animals. The growing health concerns associated with the link between animal meat and COVID-19 have resulted in consumers turning to plant-based meat alternatives.
COVID-19 has also exposed vulnerabilities in our meat supply with its effect on meat-processing plants. Employees in these plants work in close proximity to each other causing health and safety concerns. Many employees have contracted COVID-19 and some have died. These concerns prompted the shutdown of several meat-processing plants as well as reducing capacity at other plants. This has not only resulted in meat shortages but has resulted in waste. By waste, I mean in terms of food waste and animal lives. Many animal farmers have been forced to cull their livestock because they have nowhere to send them to be processed. All of this has resulted in panic buying of meat leaving many grocery shelves empty. In order to prevent hoarding, grocery stores have implemented limitations on the quantity of meat that can be purchased.
One of the criticisms of the alternative meat industry was that it was priced considerably greater than traditional animal meat. The meat shortage caused by COVID-19 resulted in price increases of traditional meat. In response, the alternative meat industry has reduced its prices and have become more competitively priced with traditional meat products. Frustrated with the limited meat supply as well as increased prices, more consumers have now turned to alternative meat products. Sales of alternative meat increased 35% during the period of April 12, 2020 to May 9, 2020.
As stated in my November 2019 article, demand for alternative meat was already on the rise. Concern for animal welfare, human health and meat shortages due to COVID-19 has provided the alternative meat industry additional opportunities for growth and acceptance.