31% of Americans are now practicing “meat free” days, boosting popularity of alternative protein sources, according to a new Mintel report. The report found that many consumers who purchase alternative proteins do so because they are watching their cholesterol (30%) or want to reduce their intake of saturated fats (29%).
Overall, 35% of Americans are getting the majority of their protein from sources other than red meat. 66% of consumers who eat alternative proteins believe they are healthier than red meat, but 46% of consumers think that alternative proteins are too high in sodium.
About 80% of consumers who eat meat alternatives said that they rely on cooking instructions on product packaging to prepare them. Two-thirds would eat more alternative proteins if they knew how to cook them.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says the livestock sector is “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.” The organization estimates that livestock production is responsible for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions — though other groups put that estimate as high as 51%.
Health issues are more likely to be top of mind for consumers when it comes to the consequences of red meat consumption. The World Cancer Research Fund recommends consumers “choose mostly plant foods, limit red meat and avoid processed meat.” Another study carried out by Oxford University’s department of public health found that eating meat no more than three times a week could prevent 31,000 deaths from heart disease, 9,000 deaths from cancer, and 5,000 deaths from stroke.
Meat consumption in the U.S. is increasing as meat prices fall. And lower prices have led to initiatives like giving consumers the flexibility to trade up to better cuts of beef or better grades of poultry.
Ultimately to the consternation of meat producers, the healthier-lifestyle trend is likely to win out, resulting in lower meat prices for committed carnivores.
Producers of meat alternatives can capitalize on consumer interest in plant-based proteins and other ingredients by providing recipes and preparation instructions on their product packaging, encouraging consumers who are on the fence to make the switch.