Plant-based proteins — the ads are everywhere; the headlines are grand; the celebrity endorsements are flowing…but does the consumer actually like it and want the product? Depends on who you ask, but a recent segment on the Today Show provides some insights on the affluent, urban crowd that may be beneficial for traditional beef producers to consider.
On Jan. 22, Dr. Oz joined the Today Show hosts to share his “guide to plant-based diets.”
The segment featured samples of various plant-based “burgers,” and oddly, the hosts all called “dibs” to not taste test the faux patties.
After testing the first burger, the lone holdout, host Craig Melvin, said, “It’s not bad guys,” and Carson Daly replied, “But it’s not great either; you didn’t say it was great.”
Daly made a few more digs at the wannabe burgers. At one point during the segment, the lights went out during filming, and he said, “This is God’s way of telling us to eat meat.”
He also joked, “This whole segment maks me excited to go to Five Guys later today.”
Meanwhile, Melvin when asked if the “facon” could compare to the real deal bacon, he quickly said, “It does not.”
All hilarity aside, it was interesting to hear some of the side comments as Dr. Oz explained each of the various patties. Even as the plant-based patties didn’t pass the taste-test, there was plenty of beef bashing, with misconceptions ranging from climate change to nutrition.
Yet, of the plant-based burgers, Oz said, “I wouldn’t consider this a healthy option.”
Without taste or health, there’s only one way to edge out the competition in the meat case — go after cattle on the environmental and animal welfare side of the discussion.
Savannah Guthrie said, “It’s not about you; it’s about the earth.”
To say the least, this was a frustrating but also entertaining segment. If you have a couple of minutes, watch it for yourself to see what you think.
For me, the ultimate take-home of this segment showed these products are more hype than actual demand; however, as I’ve said many times, if this is an option to feed a hungry planet, by all means, bring it to market and let the consumer decide.
However, my real frustration comes from the damaging, slanderous propaganda about beef cattle that spews like word vomit out of every person promoting these faux patties.
Let your product stand on its own merit, and if it’s that good, there’s no bashing necessary.
But who cares what I think? Watching this segment and speculating on consumer perceptions doesn't tell the whole story. Let’s get a pulse for consumer demand by looking at a recent survey instead.
According to a recent poll conducted by PIPLSAY., “A whopping 51% of Americans have tried fake meat at least once. Yet, only 27% of Americans think they are health and eco-friendly. And just 12% of Americans eat fake meat ‘quite often.’”
Per the survey summary, PIPLSAY reports that of the 31,909 Americans they polled, 28% say fake meats can’t beat the real deal; 20% believe fake meats are highly processed; and 25% don’t know what to think of these products at all.”
Among those who have tried fake meats (about half of those polled), “53% were just curious of the trendy new food item; 32% did so for health and environmental reasons; and 15% are trying to turn vegan/vegetarian.”
Meanwhile, for the 49% who have not tried fake meats, “64% were simply not interested; 9% were vegans/vegetarians; and 27% found it expensive.”
Interestingly, the top three states where fake meats have been sampled the most were Vermont (26%), Washington (18%) and South Dakota (20%) — maybe that means this South Dakota blogger has given these products too much attention?
And if you think the survey results are skewed, then consider this: Burger King just slashed their Impossible Whopper prices in response to poor demand.
According to Yahoo Finance, "Carrols Restaurant Group Inc., the biggest Burger King franchisee in the U.S., said sales tapered off to about 28 Impossible Whoppers daily per store -- down from 32 previously. The company, which has more than 1,000 Burger King locations, said sales appear to be stabilizing at that level. The sandwich was recently added to the chain’s two-for-$6 discount menu on a temporary basis. That compares to the previous suggested price of $5.59 per sandwich."
Clearly, I think beef has the edge on nutrition, the environment and taste. However, despite these truths, we are still plagued by so many myths, particularly the cattle and climate link. The cow farts propaganda has really "stuck," and there is a lot of work needed to be done to change consumer perceptions about animal agriculture production.
I’m so grateful for folks like Frank Mitloehner, an air quality specialist at UC-Davis, who is tirelessly working to tackle these misconceptions on Twitter, in Washington, D.C., in his university research and at speeches around the world.
Check out his Cattle and Climate series on YouTube by clicking here. Let's share Mitloehner's videos to help them go viral.
I think I’m going to go eat a cheeseburger now. Maybe Carson Daly would want to join me!
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.