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Iowans agree there’s no substitute for real meat

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For the sixth consecutive year, the Iowa Farm Bureau Food and Farm Index® finds that Iowans have a strong affinity for meat and dairy products with more than nine in 10 (99 percent) saying their households eat meat, eggs or dairy at least weekly. Additionally, only a minority of Iowa grocery shoppers would be likely to buy imitation meat over the real thing, even if presented the opportunity. 

The sixth annual survey, conducted online by The Harris Poll among 502 Iowans ages 20 to 60 with primary or shared household grocery shopping responsibilities, shows which choices and issues may be motivating them to make their food purchasing decisions. 

Although plant-based imitation meat options have grown over the years, 94 percent of shoppers still feel real meat is a healthy option, compared to 74 percent who say the same of plant-based imitation meat. Nearly three-fourths (73 percent) of Iowa grocery shoppers say they would not be likely to buy plant-based imitation meat over real meat, and two-thirds (68 percent) of respondents don’t think plant-based imitation meat should be able to use “meat” on its label.

After learning more information about the benefits of animal protein in the human diet, three-quarters (72 percent) of grocery shoppers say they are likely to eat even more meat, eggs and dairy.

That news comes as no surprise to Iowa State University food scientist Ruth MacDonald. “Animal protein continues to be important because it is a high-quality or ‘complete’ protein containing all the essential amino acids. Pork, for example, contains one of the highest amounts of protein per serving and provides needed minerals like selenium, zinc, and iron and vitamins B12, B6, thiamin and niacin,” says MacDonald, chair of the ISU Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition.

The strong consumption of Iowa meat, milk and eggs has remained consistent over the last six years of the survey. More than eight in 10 grocery shoppers say their households eat beef (86 percent), chicken (83 percent) or eggs (84 percent) at least weekly; six in 10 (59 percent) eat pork at least weekly; and more than nine in 10 (97 percent) consume dairy – cheese (93 percent), milk (87 percent) or yogurt (58 percent) at least weekly.   

The survey also indicates that a small minority of shoppers showing an interest in imitation meat is due to perceived environmental impact. Among those likely to purchase plant-based imitation meat, only one-third (34 percent) say this is due to environmental impact. Dr. Frank Mitloehner, an animal science professor at UC Davis, challenges the misinformation about the carbon footprint of livestock in the United States.

“According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which looks at emissions for the U.S. across all sectors of society including transportation, power production and use, and agriculture, 30 percent of all greenhouse gases are due to electricity production and use, followed by transportation at about 27 percent, and animal agriculture at less than 4 percent,” says Mitloehner. “So all of livestock in the United States accounts for 4 percent.” 

Additionally, the National Academies of Sciences found that eliminating all livestock in the U.S. would only reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2.6 percent.

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