Plant-based food has been on the rise for years. Previously promoted towards a niche market, these days, plant-based options are much more widespread and readily available. However, the pandemic has further increased the demand for this cruelty free option. The sales of plant-based meat and dairy continue to rise, leaving standard meat and dairy behind. Plant-based meat sales are up 148% compared to 2019 and additionally, plant-based cheese sales were up 95% compared to 2019. But why is this? Why is the pandemic helping the continuous growth of this healthy food option?
Well, there are many reasons, but the fact is, a lot more people are viewing plant-based meat as a safer option to consume than regular meat. After all, the pandemic did originate from an animal, and animal agriculture is notorious for the spreading of diseases. These diseases that can be spread between animals and humans are called ‘zoonotic diseases’. The growing concern and panic of the pandemic has caused a lot of people to opt for food choices that they consider to be less risky to their health. But what are the other reasons as to why people buy plant-based food and additionally, why do many people continue to purchase it?
Coronavirus outbreaks in meat plants
During the pandemic, the fact that animal to human transmission of disease is common is not the only insight people have gained about the meat industry. During this health crisis, there have been many cases of coronavirus outbreaks within meat packaging/processing plants. This has further added to the concerns people previously held about meat products. Transparency also lacks within these meat plants, as some workers stated that they were not told that their co-workers had the virus and were not encouraged to get tested. Many of these facilities seemed to have profit at the forefront of their mind, rather than the health of their workers as their priority. These outbreaks were mainly caused due to the fact that these workers usually have to be packed closely together to keep up with the demanding work.
Why the plant-based industries are less prone to spreading coronavirus
Alternatively, plant-based meat plants have not yet had these outbreaks. These plants have safer working regulations than their conventional meat processing counterparts do. Additionally, plant-based meat requires less manual labor to be processed and packaged, making it a less crowded and safer environment for its workers during the pandemic.
Why do people continually purchase these plant-based products?
The concerns surrounding disease may prompt people to buy plant-based options when they usually wouldn’t, but what makes them come back to buy more? Usually, when people are exposed to plant-based food, their initial reaction is surprise. They are surprised that is tastes so delicious! But some people begin to consistently purchase these products over meat. Usually, individuals are hooked on the taste of plant-based food, or on the mere fact that the food is definitely not “just salad”. This allows them to become more aware of the different ways in which eating plant-based food will have a positive impact to themselves, the environment and animals.
Health concerns associated to animal products
Outside of the corona virus scare, there are some worrying things to consider about meat. The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies processed meats as a ‘Group 1 Carcinogenic’, which means that the association has collected enough evidence to accurately conclude that processed meat causes cancer. The WHO also classifies red meat as a ‘Group 2A Carcinogenic’, which means there is enough evidence to conclude that red meat probably causes cancer. In general, there are many other health concerns associated with animal products, such as their high saturated fat and cholesterol content. Additionally, the antibiotics that are fed to animals that are in the animal agriculture industry also pose major health concerns.
Environmental concerns associated to animal products
As well as health concerns, animal agriculture also contributes to environmental destruction. The industry causes things such as deforestation, pollution and global warming. In fact, it is estimated that the industry contributes to 18% of greenhouse gas emissions. This becomes even more alarming when the emissions for animal agriculture are projected to increase 80% by 2050. It is time we incorporated more plant based meals into our diets so we can decrease the amount of greenhouse gas emitted into the atmosphere.
Ethical concerns associated to animal products
Furthermore, a lot of people begin to gain awareness of the abhorrent conditions within the animal agricultural industries and their treatment of animals. They begin to learn about disgusting systematic practices such as crushing baby chicks in an industrial sized blender while fully conscious and the forcible impregnation of dairy cows without their consent. The spreading of this information has been largely aided by social media. People are often sharing documentaries such as ‘Dominion’ and ‘Earthlings’, which show viewers the ethical concerns surrounding the industry.
Conclusively, the pandemic has created a new awareness surrounding plant-based food. It has shaped it in a more positive and ‘safe’ light and has allowed people to become aware of its benefits. Amongst all the uncertainty throughout this pandemic, the growing demand for plant-based food is here to stay.