One key fact seems to be missing these days amid the excitement about fake meat and plant-based protein: Demand for real meat is very strong. In fact, it’s never been stronger.
Americans consumed an estimated 224 pounds of meat and poultry per capita in 2019, the most ever, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And the department projects consumers will eat even more in 2020.
Americans aren’t alone. High-quality American meat is a hot item all over the world. U.S. pork exports have been shattering monthly records, and 2019 is expected to be the second-best year ever in U.S. beef exports. International sales of U.S poultry meat are also holding strong.
So why all the hubbub about the imitation beef, pork and chicken when people are enjoying more of the real thing?
A big part of it, I suspect, is the novelty and the fact that these products are supposedly a step up in quality from the unimpressive veggie burgers that have been around for years.
The second reason for the attention is claims that the imitation products are somehow superior for consumers and for the planet.
Both claims are dubious, at best. Dietitians say the imitations can’t match the nutritional punch of real meat. And studies show the greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production are much lower than critics contend and are trending lower because of efficiency.