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Livestock producers have competition

Tom J. Bechman alternative beef products
SHELF SPACE: You can find alternative beef products like this at most grocery stores. Despite what some groups claim, they remain rather pricey.
It’s not one world out there when it comes to consumers and meats.

If you don’t think there are multiple worlds when you consider what American consumers want to buy and eat, think about this. I received information from two ends of the spectrum via email only a couple of days apart.

First, I heard about the grand opening of This Old Butcher Shoppe in Lafayette, Ind., in late September. Owned by Jessica Roosa, who also operates This Old Farm Meats and Processing, Colfax, Ind., it’s billed as the newest full-service, locally sourced butcher shop serving Tippecanoe County. According to the owner, it will provide a wide selection from 100% USDA-inspected animals. The project was made possible with help from the USDA Ag Marketing Service and the Local Food Promotion Program.

Just a couple of days later, WalletHub issued a report featuring 2021’s Best Cities for Vegans and Vegetarians. WalletHub is a website devoted to personal finance. It prepared and released the report in honor of World Vegetarian Day, which you lived through on Oct. 1, and World Vegan Day, which is Nov. 1. Vegetarians exclude meat and poultry products but will consume dairy products. Some eat eggs; some do not. Vegans avoid all meat-related foods, including dairy.

Key points

What you take away from these two sets of information depends on your point of view. Obviously, among many consumers, the desire for pork, beef, poultry and fish products is strong. It’s just that now a subset of those who enjoy juicy steak and pork want it produced locally. An even smaller subset want meat from animals that were grass-fed or pasture-raised. Roosa is just one of many people willing to adjust their production practices to provide what people will buy.

At the same time, there are people who want nothing to do with meat or meat products. That’s why Burger King’s Impossible Burger made a splash last year, and why brands like Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger are available at most grocery stores. You can buy them if you have enough money in your wallet — they were as much as nearly three times as expensive as ground beef at one point this year, although it may be closer to double the price of ground beef today.

You also must be able to stomach the taste: Anecdotal evidence from taste tests indicates that while some people actually prefer them, the majority of people still pick ground beef over the alternatives in head-to-head comparisons of cooked products.

Take-home message

The WalletHub report indicates there is a demand, even if it’s less than the demand for meat products, for alternatives for vegans and vegetarians. Scottsdale, Ariz., has the highest percentage of restaurants serving vegetarian options at 27.99% — 10.1 times higher than Laredo, Texas, at 2.77%.

You may not be surprised that six of the top 10 cities listed as most economical for those purchasing for vegetarian or vegan diets are on the West Coast in California, Washington and Oregon. However, Austin, Texas, in the heart of cattle country, ranks sixth. Fort Wayne, Ind., made the top 20 at No. 19. San Francisco has the most Community-Supported Agriculture programs, 20 times more than the city with the fewest, San Antonio.

The bottom line? Meat lovers are still out there wanting products from livestock producers, but so are people who want meat alternatives. There are people willing to supply needs for both niches.

Comments? Email [email protected].

TAGS: Marketing Beef
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