How Does Animal Meat Compare to Plant-Based Meat?

Plant-Based Meat: A Flexitarian Choice of Younger Generations

In an online survey of consumers, over one-third considered themselves “flexitarian”—eating mostly plant-based diets, with the occasional meat consumption. In fact, among Americans eating less meat, 36% are directly replacing these products with plant-based alternatives.

This is being primarily driven by younger generations, who show significant preferences for plant-based lifestyles:

Generation Already regularly eating plant-based Trying to eat more plant-based
Millennials 79% 30%
Gen Z 79% 60%

It’s no wonder then, that the plant-based food market is set to sprout by nearly 5x within the next decade, expected to reach $162 billion by 2030. The top three reasons that consumers are transitioning to plant-based diets are health consciousness, environment concerns, and overall costs. How does animal meat compare to plant-based meat in these key areas?

1. Public Health and Safety

Meat can be a valuable source of protein and nutrients. So why are consumers increasingly turning to plant-based alternatives?

A study from Duke University Medical Center examined the nutritional profile of animal meat against common plant-based alternatives:

Type of protein Ground beef (113g) Soy-based alternative (113g) Bean burger (108g)
Calories 220 250 200
Cholesterol 60mg 0mg 0mg
Sodium 70mg 370mg 380mg
Protein 23g 19g 21g

The research shows that plant-based meat contains comparable protein levels to animal meat. The latter also brings with it higher cholesterol content—so replacing red meat with plant-based alternatives can help reduce the risk of heart disease.

On the flip side, many plant-based alternatives in the market are currently highly processed, but the growing use of natural and organic ingredients are reducing these sodium levels.

2. All Eyes on the Environment

Every stage of the food supply chain sees greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), but they are most prominent for animal meat compared to the ingredients for plant-based alternatives. Of all human-made GHGs, 14.5% come from livestock, of which cattle account for over half the total due to methane production and grazing land required.

In contrast, the environmental impact of plant-based alternatives is more positive:

  • 30-90% less GHG emissions
  • 47-99% less land
  • 72-99% less water

This heightened environmental awareness is leading more consumers to choose plant-based alternatives.

3. Sticker Shock, But Scale Can Help

One of the biggest barriers to ubiquitous adoption of plant-based alternatives remains cost.

Here is how the price of plant-based meat and animal meat products vary in a retail grocery store such as Whole Foods:

Product type Cost per pound (lb)
Plant-based Beyond Burger $12
Whole Foods 365 vegetable burger $6.40
Ground beef $5
Chicken $3-7
Plant-based meat (2030P) $2.92

Plant-based products come with a much higher price tag than conventional meat, but there’s good news—as demand grows, more plant-based factories are popping up. With scale, some plant-based meat could be competitively priced with animal meat.

The Rise of Plant-based Diets

As more consumers reduce their overall meat intake, they’re replacing these products with high-protein plant-based alternatives. Consumers see these as better for their health and for the planet. Soon, there will be even more options on the table at cheaper price points.

The Very Good Food Company produces great tasting, healthy food options using organic ingredients that cater to all tastes and diets.

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