Are we eating more meat-free meals, even if we aren’t vegetarian or vegan? Adrian Gastevski, co- founder of leading plant-based company Future Farm Co explains the growing behaviour behind consuming more plant-based alternatives, and the impact COVID-19 has had on the products.
The intrinsic motivation for consumers’ increasing desirability of a plant-based lifestyle continues to be health; healthier self and healthier planet. The awareness of the impact on our body and our planet is fuelled by increasing research, publications and general news that is generating the public and private discussions on the topic.
These discussions have created the realisation that we can do something better, right now, with minimal imposition to our lifestyle: It’s the choices we make every day; the food we choose to eat.
It’s been our experience in this journey so far, that the change in human behaviour would be slow but inevitable, but as attitudes are now finally evolving the pace is picking up - really fast.
All of this starts with the product and its technology - the arrival of advanced extrusion technology, finally produces products that look, taste, bleed and smell like animal meat.
The exciting thing for our planet is this food technology will continue to improve and become cheaper concurrently, whilst the animal we have relied for all of history is still bound by its own biology. In time, I can’t see how any committed carnivore won’t choose products that are better experientially, cheaper than animal meat and provide unparalleled benefits for themselves, and wider humanity.
Less meat varieties on the shelves
COVID-19 has certainly provided the time to foster increased awareness of plant-based alternatives and the benefits of such. We have experienced first-hand in Australia, across multiple brands double digit growth (year on year) across Australia and New Zealand demonstrating the growing appetite in average households for these plant-based alternatives.
The growth is no doubt multi factorial. Social connectivity and growing awareness of these alternatives is met by the shortage of animal meat, as news of animal meat processing facility shutdowns due to COVID restrictions. Perhaps some customers have turned their back on animal products that are known to cause varying diseases, perhaps some have had an excuse to try a product they perhaps had not entertained to date, only to become converted by the quality of the experience they never expected.
The health benefits of plant-based meat alternatives to their meat counterpart is undeniable. Following the World Health Organisations (WHO) classification of red and processed meats as ‘probably carcinogenic’ in 2015, and the associated causal links to colorectal cancer since, WHO recommends now a remarkably reduced human consumption of red meats. In the past four to five years we have since witnessed an explosion of research in the space, evaluating the impacts of our growing love of red meat on our health.
In August 2020, findings from a clinical study performed by Stanford University and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, claimed that just after an eight week period, improvement in key health metrics considered contributary to heart disease (including TMAO levels, cholesterol and body weight) were positively achieved by substituting animal meat with plant based alternatives. These results contribute to a growing field of research about how plant-based meat alternatives can help us lead healthier lives.
In July 2020, published by a team at Warwick Medical School in the Journal of Hypertension, a systematic review of controlled clinical trials was conducted and revealed that an increased consumption of plant based diets could avert up to 4.9 million deaths globally each year by the reduction in cardiovascular risk factors it would create within the population. It noted that unhealthy diets are responsible for more deaths and disabilities globally than tobacco use, high alcohol intake, drug use and unsafe sex put together.
The routine anti PR campaign led by global meat producers, centred on ingredient lists and processing claims, I believe is short lived. I often reflect that if the meat industry was forced to publish each and every ‘ingredient and chemical’ that went into feed, pasture management and even exposure to environmental pollution, through the lifecycle of the animal (which as we know is stored in the fat cells of the animal meat we consume) just how long the ingredient list of our favourite cut of steak would be.
No matter what you currently believe, plant-based alternatives will continue to innovate and strip cost, remove ingredients and improve nutritional value to make their product even more healthy than it is today. Unfortunately, the animal cannot be as innovative.
More sustainable choices and reducing our human footprint on our planet go hand in hand.
A study conducted by the university of Michigan at the Centre of Sustainable Systems showed that The Beyond Burger pattie requires 99 per cent less water and 93 per cent less land than its beef equivalent, whilst generating 90 per cent fewer greenhouse gas emissions and requiring 46 per cent less energy to produce.
With a third of all global methane emissions and almost 60 per cent of global agricultural greenhouse emissions coming from the humble burping cow (Poore and Nemecek, 2018), we have the power to choose now, without our politicians, without our industry leaders or our parents approval, to positively reduce our impact on our planet with the daily food choices we make.
Future Farm Co was established with a mission to help bring change to our community by increasing the education and awareness of the available options for each of us, every day. With recent advancements in technology, the feeling that we finally had access to product solutions with such quality that the barriers for change, were no longer bound by ‘taste and experience’ provided the belief and motivation to start our quest.
We are true to the belief that as volumes grow, farmers will swap their arable land from animal agriculture to plant protein ingredients. Efficiencies will be born, nutrients will improve further, prices will drop, and experiences will enhance to be equal to animal meat, all at the same time. A perfect storm where no human will conscionably choose a lifestyle other than an alternate protein to their once adored burping cow.
We have little doubt that the ‘now consumers’ of this space will look back and realise the contribution their choices have made, to bring speed of change that will be later regarded amongst the most significant in the history of the food industry.
Adrian Gastevski is the co-founder of Future Farm Co, delivering plant-based foods to Australia and New Zealand and specialising in plant-based meat and grocery.