In a place like South Dakota, where cattle outnumber people four to one, it’s not often that we see the plant-based rhetoric pushed as hard as in other places. Yet, a recent news story on local television station, KELOLand, has meat lovers and the ranching community up in arms.
Reporter Sophie Heinemann interviews a local vegan shopping for produce at the grocery store. He says his diet is made easier thanks to alternative plant-based proteins like black bean burgers or the Beyond Meat patty.
The passionate vegan told the South Dakota TV station, “I really enjoyed the alternative plant-based meats like black bean burgers and such, but I felt like it was a good stepping stone in a transitional phase into keep on improving my diet and adapting to a better lifestyle.”
Interviewing a local grocery store vendor that specializes in natural foods, the merchant explains how the Beyond Burger is a quick sellout, and they have expanded their line of plant-based meat options to meet the growing demand.
She said, “Our customers are more and more interested in meatless alternatives. So the Beyond Burgers sold out every case we could get in for awhile when we first brought them in, and we just brought in the sausages from them and they’ve been really popular.”
Yet, despite the increasingly loud chorus that wants everyone to believe that plant-based diets are superior when considering nutrition, wellness, animal welfare and sustainability, the truth is — consumers love meat and are eating more of it now than ever before.
And the anti-meat crowd knows this. That’s why activists are pushing so hard to serve a side of guilt, fear and confusion with every ounce of beef sold in America today. Unfortunately, you don’t have to search long to find negative stories online relating to meat in the diet.
It’s going to take strong voices on the side of common sense and reason to reassure consumers that they don’t have to feel guilty about eating meat. Quite the contrary, in fact, as meat has many environmental, nutritional and ethical benefits when directly comparing the footprint of plant-based diets.
Thankfully, there are some big retailers who are saying “no” to the plant-based frenzy.
Arby’s has not only stated strongly that they will not be serving plant-based alternatives at their retail locations, but now they’re even betting against the trend to the tune of $3.9 billion against fake meats.
“We put a bold flag down,” said Jim Taylor, Arby’s chief marketing officer, in an interview with Fast Company. “If you are someone with us, who shares a passion for high-quality meat cooked the right way as deliciously as possible, we’re going to be a place you can get an abundance of different types of meat as a centerpiece for every sandwich.”
According to the Fast Company article, “Indeed, in the age of plant-based Impossible burgers and Beyond Meat, Arby’s has not only decided to resist the rising tide of veganism and flexitarianism, it’s positioned carnivory as a ‘with us or against us’ values system, going so far as to recently launch its first ‘megetable,’ which it called a ‘marrot’ —a shameless troll of a carrot that’s made entirely out of meat.”
Vowing to serve “real meat,” Arby’s offers eight different types of meat on its menu with specialty meats coming and going seasonally, which include meats like lamb, pork belly and venison.
Referring to veganism, Taylor said, “What I’ve found, for long-term adoption in mainstream America, is ‘How does it taste and what does it cost?’ People are not going to pay more for something that tastes worse.
"I’ve seen statistics where 80% to 85% of vegetarians come back to eating meat as part of their lifestyle at some point. We want to be that place for people coming back. That takes a stand at this day and age. Not appealing to vegetarians, in fact, makes us stronger as a brand. We’re 100% carrying a flag for meat-loving America.”
Plant-based mania aside, I’m glad to know there are still some retailers out there who know and understand their customers, who value those of us who want to consume meat and who realize that meat consumption is here to stay, despite the naysayers trying to convince us otherwise.
Arby’s, coincidentally, is owned by the same company that owns Culver’s, another agriculturally-friendly retailer. So I will add this one to my list of restaurants that support and endorse meat consumption and modern farming in today’s America.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.