Meat is Cheap. How Can Vegan Products Compete?

September 30, 2020

Consumer interest in plant-based foods is rising due to health and ethical concerns about meat, dairy, and eggs. In the last decade, vegan brands like Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, and Lightlife have managed to capture the taste, texture, and experience of meat using peas and other plant protein sources. What's stopping them from replacing animal products entirely?

The biggest obstacle is cost. While these relatively new products have succeeded in impressing consumers' tastebuds, their accessibility is limited due to the comparatively low cost of animal meat.

Why is meat so cheap?

Meat has become outrageously cheap in the US. According to Vox, the average price for a meat alternative in the last year was $9.87/lb, compared to beef at $4.82/lb and chicken at a mere $2.33/lb.

The problem isn't that plant-based products are inherently more expensive to produce, it's that the animal agriculture industry is not being held accountable for its costs. Animal agriculture is heavily subsidized by the federal government, but the story doesn't end there. Worker's rights, animal cruelty laws, and pollution regulation are not well-enforced for factory farms, which allows them to turn many of their major costs into externalities. These "savings" are passed along to the end consumer, making animal products appear cheap on grocery store shelves.

“The chicken industry has managed to cut all their corners," says Lewis Bollard, researcher at the Open Philanthropy Project. "They don’t pay their environmental bills, they don’t pay for a lot of the public health hazards they cause. They have managed to produce a product that is just artificially cheap and hard to compete with.”

Can plant-based meat compete?

Plant-based trailblazers Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have been working hard to scale their operations and lower their production costs. They know that no matter how great their products taste, many consumers won't be on board without competitive pricing. "As we scale up, our costs naturally go down,” says David Lee, CFO at Impossible Foods. "That means there’s the potential for a virtuous cycle where lower costs recruit more consumers, who make further cost savings possible."

Thanks to improved efficiency, plant-based meat prices are indeed falling, even within just a few years of research and development. Beyond Meat has made a commitment to, by 2024, sell at least one product that’s at the same price (or cheaper) than animal meat. This will be an impressive achievement, given that the animal agriculture industry has spent decades wringing out inefficiencies in production.

What about vegan pet food?

At v-dog, our goal is to make 100% plant-based and cruelty free products that are affordable for dog parents. We're competing with meat-based dog food companies that use the absolute cheapest forms of meat available — 4-D meat. Sadly, slaughterhouse byproducts form the base of most pet food and are extremely inexpensive, making vegan dog food seem "overpriced" in comparison. We're proud to be part of a movement towards a cleaner, more sustainable pet food industry. Learn more about us here.

v-dog kibble and treats

At v-dog, we make plant-powered kibble and treats for pooches of all shapes and sizes. Our nutritionally complete dog food has helped dogs recover from countless health problems including skin irritation, allergies, and digestive issues. Join us to help make this world a healthier, kinder place for our furry friends!


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Source: Vox
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