Not to sound alarmist to the meat-loving crowd, but many are predicting that 2019 will be the “Year of the Vegan.”
In fact, John Parker for The Economist claims that one in four Americans in the ages between 25 and 34 years old consider themselves to be vegans.
What’s more, Davide Banis for Forbes claims that “ending animal farming, or substantially reducing it, would indeed bring huge benefits to the planet, our health and the lives of the 56 billion animals slaughtered every year for meat consumption.”
Of course, the industry is contending with emerging alternative proteins such as cell cultured proteins and plant-based protein patties.
Then there’s a new company from the Netherlands called The Vegetarian Butcher, which aims to become the “largest butcher in the world” while making plant-based meats “the standard.”
On top of all this, you have some of the biggest celebrities on the planet endorsing a vegan diet. Most recently, JAY-Z & Beyoncé have challenged their fans to join in their vegan journey in 2019.
The musical powerhouse couple wrote an introduction for Marco Borges' (Beyoncé's personal trainer) new book, “The Greenprint: Plant-Based Diet, Best Body, Better World.”
The duo says, “Having children has changed our lives more than anything else. We used to think of health as a diet—some worked for us, some didn’t. Once we looked at health as the truth, instead of a diet, it became a mission for us to share that truth and lifestyle with as many people as possible.”
They add, “We all have a responsibility to stand up for our health and the health of the planet. Let’s take this stand together. Let’s spread the truth. Let’s make this mission a movement. Let’s become 'the Greenprint.’”
Are you nauseous yet? I must admit I am.
To be clear, it’s not that I care if people abstain from eating animal fats and proteins.
Quite frankly, it’s none of my business.
Well, actually as a beef producer, I guess it is my business to sell beef, and I have no qualms about my bias when I’m promoting the nutritional, environmental and ethical benefits of eating beef.
When Beyoncé and JAY-Z talk about veganism as “truth,” like it’s some sort of religion, cult or the “only” way we should be eating, that’s when warning bells start to ring in my head.
This “truth” ignores an overwhelming amount of science to the contrary. In fact, no society in the history of our planet has proven that a vegan diet is healthy or sustainable for the long term and from generation to generation.
However, it’s important to note that many civilizations in our history — Inuit and North American natives come to mind — who have thrived largely on meat-based diets. Think seal blubber and whales in the Arctic and bison and other wild game on the Northern Plains.
What’s more, I worry that if plant-based becomes “the truth” or “the standard,” our freedom of choice will be taken away. Sin taxes will be slapped on beef. The government’s nutritional guidelines will reflect plant-based recommendations. Regulations will burden producers until it’s no longer feasible to operate. Consumers will place great burdens on companies to move to plant-based menus. The list goes on and on…
I don’t mean to sound doom and gloom, but I write this to wake us all up. We’ve got a real challenge headed our way, and the threat to our way of life and our freedom of choice is tangible and growing larger each day.
I’ve been writing about consumer trends on this blog for 10-plus years now, and never before have I seen the movement as strong as I’ve seen it at this point.
However, the one thing that reassures me that beef cattle producers will still be relevant in the years to come is this — Americans consumed record amounts of meat in —a whopping 218 pounds per capita, according to the National Chicken Council. Of that, 57 pounds was beef.
Beef demand is stronger than ever. Our export markets are incredible. People love our product and are willing to pay for it. It tastes great, and despite the abundance of misinformation out there, it’s good for us and good for the planet, too.
If this issue isn’t on your radar in 2019, you better peak out from underneath the rock you’re hiding under. It’s never been more important than right now to share the positive word about beef with our consumers. Let’s get to work, everybody. Only collectively can we make a difference!
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.