Fake meat is woke

To discover the new foods that could end up on our plates, the International Food Show (SIAL) is a must. This week, the event took place in Paris, and visitors were able to see a slew of plant imitations. Imitations of meat, dairy products, fish.

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Do you think the French will convert to vegan foie gras made from cashew nuts?

It was one of 500 new foods introduced by the industry. About 2000. The proportion is significant.

There were “the years of gluten-free, then those of organic”, reminded the director general of SIAL, Nicolas Trentesaux, to the newspaper The world. This year, the “highlight”, he added, was obviously “the explosion of the vegetable supply “.

On this side of the Atlantic, the craze for fake meat has clearly faded. After a moderate rise in sales in 2021, this category has stagnated in 2022. Analysts see this as evidence that the market may have peaked.

Two financial services firms, Deloitte and UBS, recently released reports that attempt to explain consumers’ declining appetite for fake ground beef and fake chicken nuggets.

According to UBS, it is first and foremost a problem of taste. Nearly 6 out of 10 people don’t want to try plant-based meat for fear that it will be bad. The taste is also the main reason why consumers do not repurchase after having tested it.

This is quite a challenge for the industry. We eat to stay alive, but above all for pleasure. To decide to put food in our grocery basket, at the price it is returned, we must like it. You have to imagine enjoying them. I don’t mind holding my nose and swallowing the horrible Buckley syrup, because I can see the advantages in it. In the case of fake meat, the virtues are less obvious.

Moreover, the claim that vegetable protein is healthier than meat is less and less raw. The change is noticeable. Last year, 68% of those who bought imitation meat felt it was better for their bodies. This year, the proportion has fallen to 60%, writes Deloitte.

Another barrier to purchase for 37% of people surveyed by UBS in Europe and the United States: it is a processed product.

It is true that this food contains a long list of ingredients, which nutritionists generally advise against. When comparing beef and vegetable protein patties, UBS found that they were similar in calories, fat (even saturated), and protein. Factory-cooked ones contain a lot of sodium.

Fake meat, however, does not contain any animal muscle. And that is his most convincing argument. Its number one asset, say its followers. No cruelty. A smaller ecological footprint. This is not negligible in the midst of a climate crisis.

And inflation, in all this? In Canada, the price of real meat has jumped 7.6% over the past year in the country. But it turns out that its vegetable equivalents are even more expensive. In April, a report by Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Agriculture estimated that the price differential was 38% in favor of meat.

“It’s complicated territory, because the majority of plant products are copies. They want to look like meat or dairy products, but are not. There is an ambiguity in this offer of ultra-processed products, with lists of complex ingredients, rather high prices, while the consumer wants the real thing,” the boss of SIAL summed up well to the journalist from Le World.

In the United States, a layer of complexity is added to the equation: for some people, plant-based meat is considered… woke !

This is not a joke.

Deloitte even mentions “cultural resistance” to vegetable proteins because of their reputation woke, which can hurt the sales of manufacturing companies. The “insult” was thrown at the Cracker Barrel restaurant chain this summer after it added mock sausage to its menu.


Mock sausage served by Cracker Barrel

In response to the flood of harsh criticism on social media, the editor of CNN Business wrote a captioned text: “Come on, America. Food isn’t “woke””, which could be translated as “Be serious for a second, my compatriots, food has no ideology”.

In the land of steakhouses and 36-ounce ribeyes, even veggies fuel culture wars.

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