opinion | The falling demand for plant-based meat suggests the hype was ahead of the curve

opinion |  The falling demand for plant-based meat suggests the hype was ahead of the curve
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The future of plant-based meat should be cooked to perfection. in the past few years, corporate and venture capital Funds flowed into the room. QuicklyFood Giants like KFC and Burger King hazards to roll out offers. The meme stock crowd gathered Beyond meat. Sales grew. It would please vegans who lack meat! Even better, it would find a following of meat eaters looking for cuts!

Now it’s clear that the hype has preempted a sometimes unpalatable reality. Selling plant-based meats in the United States are below up more than 10 percent from this time last year. The problem is fundamental: The problems that artificial meat should solve – from the climate impact of industrial agriculture to the health effects of meat – are all too real, but the solution it offers appeals to far fewer consumers than expected.

The truth, of course, is that we eat not just for nourishment, but for pleasure. Meat offers a sinewy, wild, savory experience that is impossible to replicate to this day.

After asking around for weeks, I discovered few fans of processed meat substitutes. “Too tough,” said a friend. “Meggy,” said another. My older son made a face. The only person I could find who claimed it tasted like the original admitted that they hadn’t tried the original in over 20 years. Some people on vegetarian diets told me they didn’t mind and were happy to have it as an option on fast-food menus, and others told me they enjoyed it as a substitute for breakfast meats like sausage and bacon. But few people seemed to find plant-based meat truly delicious.

On the pundits’ side, everyone from Wall Street short sellers to market researchers said many sales of counterfeit meat went, at least initially, to people testing it. “I think a lot of the demand was because people tried it once,” said well-known short seller Jim Chanos when I called him to ask how the once-promising Beyond Meat became one of the most popular shorts out there . He pointed out that the company was “unprofitable”. When I asked him what he thought of the offers himself, he replied, “Put me in the category of people who tried it once.”

And when it comes to health, yes, this “meat” significantly reduces saturated fats compared to the original – but it’s also higher in sodium. They are a heavily processed offering. “These are not your mom’s veggie burgers made with beans and other whole plant ingredients,” warns a report released this year by the advocacy group Food & Water Watch. The industrial food complex is a huge player, with companies like Tyson Foods and Cargill dominating the space.

These facts mean that many people well versed in health have remained skeptical about adding these artificial meats to their diet. “It has the same feel as a lot of other things in the industrial landscape where we think we can outsmart nature,” says Kristin Lawless, author of “Formerly known as Essen.”

Data shows that the new offering doesn’t appear to result in big meat cuts – it’s more of a supermarket add-on. As a study published in the journal this year Nature remarked wryly, “Interestingly after a household’s first PBMA [plant-based meat alternatives] Purchase, consumption of minced meat has not decreased.”

In times of rising food prices, it is all too easy to do without such novelties. Of the people who told me that they both enjoyed plant-based meats and ate them regularly (often as a substitute for lunchtime meat), several said they reduced their diets as inflation took hold. This points to a significant problem – artificial meat often is expensive than at least the budget version of the original.

In other words, people want to do something good for the environment and their health – but not at a significant cost to their taste buds or their wallets.

It’s hard not to think about margarine. Already in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s Margarine quickly replaced butter in cooking. One commercial claimed the stuff was so good it could “fool Mother Nature.” That wasn’t true, and consumers knew it. They just thought it was a healthier choice. When it became clear in the 1990s that wasn’t the case, sales melted away. That’s not to say margarine isn’t with us anymore, but few talk about it as a substitute for butter.

It could be that what we are seeing is a brief pause and the imitation meat market picking up again as the product and the economy improve. One reason for optimism: Plant-based meat consumers are overall younger than other buyers, which means there is more room for growth.

But there is already a viable protein option for those who want to go vegan or eat less meat. As the doctor says, eat your peas… and other legumes like lentils and beans. That’s right, they don’t taste like sausage or chicken. On the other hand, neither do the imitators, if you ask me.

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