Plant-based meats are the talk of town in 2021, with restaurants and fast-food outlets including popular plant-based meats into their menus – and attracting waves of excited diners.
The rise is popularity of plant-based meats has been attributed largely to how these meats are kinder to our health, planet and animals. But is this really true? In this article, we look beyond the hype and explore the evidence behind these beliefs.
Better for health than traditional meat?
Since vegetables are good for health, does it mean that plant-based meat is better than animal meat? According to nutritionists, yes and no. Plant-based meat is made of ingredients that come from plants – but its nutritional value isn’t the same as eating a bowl of fresh salad. (And this isn’t why diners are choosing plant-based meat over animal meat).
With that said, how does plant-based meat compare with animal meat – at least in terms of health? According to a report called “Plant-Based Meat: A Healthier Choice ?”, plant-based meat scores better on multiple health indices – with higher (or comparable) protein levels and dietary fibre, and less saturated fat.
On the flip side, other reports have found animal meat recipes to contain slightly less sodium and lower calories than their meatless counterparts. So in this category, both meats appear to have advantages over the other.
Kinder to animals?
This is one area where there simply isn’t a debate. Being plant-based, zero animals are slaughtered in the production of these meats. But let’s also look deeper into this issue and ask ourselves, “Why are more and more diners opposed to the meat industry?”
One of these reasons is the opposition that many modern diners have to factory farming, especially as they believe that these animals are crowded into pens, crates and cages – with little light and stimuli, and sometimes even less space to sleep. Diners also oppose to potential cruelty in how animals are slaughtered.
Simply put, most former meat eaters don’t have an issue with consuming meat, they just hope animals can live fulfilling lives, before they are turned into a meal – but they don’t trust the meat industry to properly care for factory-farmed animals. And that’s why they choose to either avoid eating meat, or prefer humane alternatives like plant-based meat.
Winner: Plant-based meat
Friendlier to our planet?
National Geographic stated that eating (animal) meat has dire consequences for the planet. Quoting a report found in a British medical journal, the renowned publication highlights how the world could be unable to feed the human population by 2050 – unless we replace a significant portion of our animal meat consumption with fruits and vegetables instead.
Our fascination with animal meat (and animal farming) has also led to the production of greenhouse gases that are harming our planet. And that’s not all. The amount of other resources – like water – it takes to produce animal meat, is rather alarming.
According to the Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IME) in the United Kingdom, it takes between 5,000 to 20,000 litres of water to produce just 1kg of meat. UNESCO puts beef at the top of this list, requiring 15,000 litres of water for 1kg of beef. Pork comes in second, with 1kg of pork needing 4,800 litres of water to produce.
By comparison, the amount of resources it takes to grow and harvest plants for the creation of plant-based meat is significantly lower – making these meat alternatives friendlier to our environment, and well-loved by diners who believe in saving the environment (and do so by keeping meat off their plates).
Winner: Plant-based meat
And the winner is…
When reaching out to diners who are skipping meat, the winner is clear. Plant-based meats (usually available in beef and chicken varieties) give these diners the ability to abide by their beliefs, while still enjoying their favourite dishes.
But traditional meat still has a place at the dining table, as it’s still well-loved by many diners. Our recommendation is to expand your menu with dishes that feature plant-based meats – allowing you to attract new diners to your restaurant, while keeping your existing customers happy with their favourites.