Sales of Meatless Meat Rise 35 Percent During COVID-19 Crisis

|Updated Jun 8, 2020
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During the COVID-19 crisis, the sales of meatless meats have jumped 35 percent, according to a recent report from Nielsen, and though demand for meat is also up, the plant-based alternatives are far outpacing their rival meat products as Americans seek to eat healthier and avoid anything that could put them in danger of contracting the virus.

Staying away from meat -- now and in the future-- appears to be a good choice: A new study showed unequivocally that eating a diet high in saturated fat is linked to a higher risk of heart disease, and the less saturated fat in your food, the lower your risk of heart disease, according to cardiologist Dr. Joel Kahn, Clinical Professor of Medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine, who wrote up the news for The Beet.

COVID-19 Is Rampant in Meat Processing Plants, Making the Pubic Nervous

One reason may be the question of is meat safe. During the rise of this meatless sales surge, the meat industry saw the closing of meat plants due to widespread outbreaks of COVID-19 within the confines of where the animals are slaughtered, the meat is processed and packaged. Americans want to avoid any possible exposure to the virus, and the fact that their meat may have been touched or breathed on by someone with COVID-19 makes consumers skittish, even if the risk of transmission through food is scarce to none (though theoretically possible). The Physicians  Committee for Responsible Medicine called for inspections to make sure that meat is "virus-free" and while the USDA is unlikely to heed this petition, the message was out: Meat + sick workers = stay away.

Eating More Plant-Based Foods Can Help Boost Immunity, during COVID-19

The other reason consumers are choosing plant-based meat is that they are trying to eat foods that are healthier for them now,  during the health crisis. This is driving increasing numbers of Americans to opt into a more plant-based diet to boost immunity, lower inflammation, and create a healthier body that is able to fight off any potential infection. COVID-19 cases are still on the march and some pockets of the country have seen rising numbers while others, such as New York, have seen hospitalizations and deaths drop to one-tenth of what they were during the peak of the crisis. Still, America got the memo: Until there is a vaccine, the only defense against the new coronavirus is a strong healthy body. And the best way to achieve that is through choosing foods that are high in antioxidants and low in potential harmful compounds.

The plant-eating public has grown during 2020 and a recent survey found that 23 percent of Americans are "eating a more plant-based diet" during COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile a brand new study just released determined once and for all that a diet high in saturated fat, found in meat and dairy,  increases risk of heart disease by 21 percent. Dr. Joel Kahn declared in a story for The Beet: The Food Wars Are Over. Essentially plant-based has won.

The jump in meatless meat sales of 35 percent took place from April 12 to May 9th, as compared to the four weeks leading up to January 19th (pre-COVID-19 widespread scare and spread).

Late April when meatless meat sales were climbing, coincides with a time during which slaughterhouses were in the news for having 5,000 people effected with COVID-19, high numbers of sick and dying plant workers, and President Trump forcing the plants to re-open as essential businesses. This made no one happy: The meat workers' union declared that their members felt that conditions inside the plants were not safe, and PETA quoted a USDA inspector as saying she had seen animals that were being slaughtered in a speeded-up line method that made it possible that fecal matter and other non-edible particles could end up in our food.

Then in late April, The Human Society sued the USDA for allowing these unusually cruel speeded-up and overcrowding practices, which meant that the conditions were neither humane nor safe.

As the American public got more than a glimpse into how their food was made, the picture wasn't pretty. Then senators proposed a bill that would allow customers to know where their meat originated, in the US or in Brazil or other countries. Introduced and co-sponsored by Sens. Steve Daines (R., Mont.), John Thune (R., S.D.) the bill is meant to prop up the cattle farmers hurt by the crisis. and Cory Booker (D., N.J.).  to inform customers which country beef commodities originated in, providing more transparency to American shoppers and giving American producers a competitive edge.

But at this point many shoppers -- meat-eaters or plant-based eaters alike -- had seen too much. It's hard to unlearn what you already know. Slaughterhouses are a dangerous place for everyone -- and for once PETA, the meat industry workers Union, and the public all seem equally horrified at what has been taking place in the meat plants.

Unlike Livestock, Plant-Based Food Is Produced as Needed, with Longer Shelf Life

Then Impossible Foods added more workers to its production lines, increased their pay and put on shifts to reach demand, and allow it to sell plant-based products in grocery stores. At the same time Beyond Meat saw sales sore as they lowered prices to be more competitive for consumers who are feeling the need to stretch their grocery dollars. Beyond reported record sales in the first quarter of this year and its stock climbed to 5 times its previous value.

The whole thing was a perfect storm for the ascendance of plant-based meat, which tastes as good as the real thing but delivers none of the real or perceived health threats. To try to achieve the healthier-for you goal of eating more plant-based, meatless meat is a good first step. From there the goal is to eat more whole foods, less processed meals, and add heart-healthy vegetables, grains, legumes, and nuts to your plate. For more recipes from The Beet or to start your Beginner's Guide to Going Plant-Based sign up here.