- In a new study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, researchers found individuals who increased their red meat consumption by at least half a serving per day during the course of eight years were more likely to die during the subsequent eight years. This finding held true across all populations regardless of gender, age, activity level, quality of diet, smoking status or alcohol consumption.
- Those who increased their intake of processed red meat had a 13% higher risk of mortality than those who did not. Those who increased their consumption of unprocessed red meat were slightly better off with a 9% higher mortality risk.
- On the other side of the coin, the study also showed that decreasing red meat consumption in conjunction with increasing healthier options like nuts, fish, poultry and whole grains was associated with lower risk of mortality.
With all the environmental and health concerns associated with animal protein, it’s been tough to be a meat producer during the last few years. In spite of all that, beef production and overall meat consumption continues to rise.
Last year, consumers ate 222.2 pounds of red meat and poultry each, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. On average, that’s 10 ounces of protein a day — well over the 5 to 6.5 ounces recommended by the USDA for a healthy diet. Perhaps the rise of eating patterns like the paleo diet, which emphasizes protein, contributed to consumer demand and helped meat sales for continue to be sizzling hot.
Despite its popularity, meat has been found to contribute to less-than-desirable health outcomes in several scientific studies. While individual studies can be brushed off and ignored, the cumulation of these findings may get consumers’ attention — or at least push them toward more plant-based options.
In any case, the tide is undoubtedly turning toward plants and companies are paying attention. The Good Food Institute, whose mission is to accelerate the growth of plant- and cell-based products, estimated investors have put more than $16 billion into alternative meat companies in the past decade — $13 billion of it in 2017 and 2018. The wild success of startups — including Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods — spurred large CPG titans into action. Companies including Tyson, Perdue Farms and Nestlé trying to take a bite out of the segment.
Brands like Hormel's Applegate and Tyson's new Raised & Rooted are trying to take meat eaters halfway there with hybrid offerings that combine meat and plant protein.
While hybrid burgers may not be the way forward, there is still hope for the meat industry as a whole. Options like grass-fed and free-range are popular with consumers who are looking to eat responsibly but still want to enjoy some good old-fashioned meat. Retail sales of fresh grass-fed beef increased from just $17 million in 2012 to $272 million in 2016. This year’s Food Marketing Institute and North American Meat Institute's recent "Power of Meat" report said that 54% of consumers would like more grass-fed items in stores.