Part two of two.
In our previous article, ‘The Vegan Movement Disrupted the Food Industry’, we detailed the paradigm shift of the ‘face’ of veganism. From a fringe movement to a diet and lifestyle endorsed by athletes and celebrities and the positive impact that the rise in veganism could have on the food industry, as well as the environment.
But what else should we consider when we think of the vegan trend, and are there any downsides of the ‘vegan pound’?
You could argue that the press and to some extent, anti-Brexit propaganda has gone some way to deter individuals from eating meat.
This article, ‘Where will our food come from after Brexit?’, touches upon the stories that outlined the plan for American imports to be increased, causing concern with regards to their hormone-treated beef and chorine washed chickens. Currently UK farming laws sit under EU law, and the worry was that these would be relaxed in order to enable our farmers to keep with the price of the imports.
In reality, US farmers are proactively looking to treat their cattle without hormones, and as this produce comes with a premium price tag, it doesn’t look like this will be as much of a threat to UK farmers as was originally thought.
We will wait to see exactly how this will play out, but regardless of the reality of the situation, the negative press will have undoubtedly turned people off from eating meat, and or dairy.
There is no denying that the rise in veganism has seen us fill our shopping baskets with food from far and wide, causing a large carbon footprint.
Popular foods such as avocados, lentils, mangoes, quinoa, coconut oil, nut milk, blueberries, goji berries and chickpeas are all imported from abroad. Although UK farmers have begun to grow some of these items such as lentils, chickpeas and sweet potatoes on home soil in recent years.
Not only do we need to consider the carbon footprint of long-distance transportation, but the wider impact of the increased import of these foods. For example, at the beginning of 2019, Kenya banned exporting avocados because the country’s supply was at risk Equally Mexico previously considered importing the fruit. This is because despite being a world leader in supplying the fruit, they didn’t have enough for their own consumption – having a negative impact on citizens for whom avocado is a staple part of their diet.
Yet another example of our increased consumption that impacts locals of the country of origin is quinoa and the people of the Andes. The grain had long been a key part of the regions diet, but in three years the cost of quinoa has trebled, becoming too expensive for locals to buy, leading to a decrease in consumption in the area.
Not only are people opting for more fruit, vegetables, grains and whole foods, there are many individuals who have opted for a vegan diet that want to eat plant-based protein.
In the last 24 months, we have seen many of the supermarket chains stock a range of plant-based ‘meat’ products. From substitutes for fish fingers, steaks, pulled pork, chicken pieces and even kebab style meat – it begs the question, what has this meant for Britain’s farmers?
Only recently, Tesco aired a pro-vegan advert featuring a father and daughter duo who switch to a meat substitute for a casserole.
The National Farmers Union accused the ad of ‘demonising meat as a food group’. A dairy farmer also wrote an article in the Telegraph that focused on the risk to farmers livelihoods due to this change in attitude.
The truth is that the UK’s consumption of red meat has dropped by 10% in as many years. Beef products fell by 7% in the last year, pork has dropped by 4% and lamb by nearly 5%.
Another threat to the livelihood of family farmers is the rise of ‘megafarms’, housing up to 3,000 cows, 20,000 pigs or over a million chickens. Many supermarkets all source their meats from these farms.
When it comes to dairy products, it comes as no surprise that demand has fallen. A Mintel report found that 23% of Britons now opt for plant-based milk. Although the cows milk market is still worth around £3 billion, consumption has dropped by 50% since the 1950s, meanwhile sales of oat, coconut and almond milk have risen by 70%, 16% and 10% respectively, since 2014.
With the fate of STILL Brexit looming over us, and 2019 being dubbed as the ‘year of the vegan’, we will wait to see how the trend continues. Will it turn out to be yet another fad, along with clean eating and Atkins-style low carb diets?
If it is a lifestyle set to continue then as a nation, we must look to eat with locality and seasonality in mind to reduce the impact on the environment. The meat and dairy industries must become stronger at communicating their positive attributes in order to fight the public perception.
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