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Fake Meat Failing in the Marketplace; Fake Eggs Goosed by Real Egg Inflation

I enjoy pointing out the potential of plant-based protein and lab-grown meat because those products (a) are good for the planet and (b) threaten the Big Meat power structure.

But Bloomberg reports that customers are not as interested in fake meat, partly and predictably due to price:

Supermarket sales of refrigerated plant-based meat plummeted 14% by volume for the 52 weeks ended Dec. 4, according to retail data company IRI. Orders of plant-based burgers at restaurants and other food-service outlets for the 12 months ended in November were down 9% from three years earlier, according to market researcher NPD Group.

…Plant meat still costs more than the real thing, and with inflation pushing up prices across the supermarket, many grocery shoppers have swapped the expensive imitation for chicken or, in some cases, beans and lentils [Deena Shanker, “Fake Meat Was Supposed to Save the World. It Became Just Another Fad,” Bloomberg via The Business Standard, 2023.01.21].

Pork prices are down, but egg prices are up, so plant-based eggs are on the good side of inflation:

With the price of eggs still on the rise, it seems people are reaching for a cheaper alternative: plant-based options.

Andrew Noyes, head of global communications and public affairs for Alameda-based plant-based egg company JUST Egg, said their sales have been higher than ever.

Found on grocery store shelves and restaurant menus, plant-based alternatives are becoming increasingly prominent. But Noyes said the plant-based egg market is one of the fastest-growing categories in the plant-based food space.

The latest data shows the price of eggs has risen 59 percent year over year as of December 2022 due to both inflation and an avian flu outbreak. The national average of a dozen eggs has reached about $3.59, but there have been reports in the Bay Area of a dozen eggs reaching as high as $8.99. This compares with plant-based options like JUST Egg which costs about $4.30 for the equivalent of eight hen’s eggs, Noyes said [Miabelle Salzano, “Are More People Turning to Plant-Based Eggs Amidst Egg Price Surge?” KRON-TV San Francisco, 2023.01.17].

Aberdeen’s low-wattage Republican Legislative delegation was floating House Bill 1068, another silly sally into Beef-Its-What’s-for-Dinnerism that sought to fight the scourge of fake meat pretending to be real meat. Representative Carl Perry, Senator Al Novstrup, and rookie Representative Brandei Schaefbauer wanted to stuff a bunch of language into South Dakota’s deceptive-advertising statutes to make it a crime to advertise, brand, or sell any product as meat or poultry that isn’t meat or poultry (kind of like how Perry, Novstrup, and Schaefbauer market themselves as limited-government conservatives). Perhaps acceding to the wisdom of the market, Rep. Perry withdrew HB 1068 on Friday. Trust the people, Carl: people know the difference between real meat and fake meat without the government’s help. They certainly know the difference between the prices.

14 Comments

  1. sx123 2023-01-24 06:01

    I think lab grown meat has much more potential of success than ground up (highly processed) plant based concoctions.

    Lab grown meat (if affordable) in the form of sausages or nuggets should work just fine and not have much of an ick factor.

  2. Arlo Blundt 2023-01-24 13:37

    I like eggs and eat at least two a day. My Grandmother did not eat red meat but ate 3 or 4 eggs a day and lived to 102. Eggs are protein rich (the whites) and are full of other vitamins and minerals that are good for you. Recent research, my doctor tells me, shows the fat in eggs (the yolk) is not an artery clogger and has several other benefits. Eggs used to be no more than a dime apiece. Store eggs which come from industrial hatcheries, are pale in the yolk, small, and suspect. Also, they are way too expensive since the avian flu went through. Get yourself an “egg lady” and buy direct from the farm. Better yet, put up a coop and bring in a half dozen layers.

  3. P. Aitch 2023-01-24 14:03

    Fifty freakin’ cents an egg? That’s not expensive. Think of what the hen has invested. #grins

  4. John 2023-01-24 17:07

    Price on an emerging product with exponential growth & cost reductions is a poor metric. Glance at renewable energy, EVs, etc. It’s likely this article was handed to the reporter by the usual suspects in the packing plant cabol.

  5. larry kurtz 2023-01-24 18:47

    Funny Mark. Our Lady of the Arroyo had her man buy ten pullets to replace our aging hens and we’re big fans of Amy’s organic chili made with tofu so huevos rancheros with green chile have become staples here.

  6. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2023-01-24 18:58

    John, yes, the Bloomberg article does seem to take a particular hostile view toward fake meat. The author seems to relish declaring fake meat over. Beyond and Impossible may be losing market share now, but that does not seem to demonstrate that consumers have forever rejected plant-based protein and lab-grown meat or that entrepreneurs with good chemistry and good taste can’t make a go of competing with the status quo meat powers.

    Impossible Foods rebuts:

    …Across several pages rife with one-sided anecdotes and editorialized framing, the story works hard to create a misperception that plant-based meat, once celebrated for its significant environmental potential, has nowhere to go but down. The reporting is scarce of any data to support its position.

    Sales have “plummeted”, it said, referring to a mere 14% drop in refrigerated plant-based meat sales across the category (with no mention that frozen plant-based meat sales are up across the category). Impossible Foods, it claimed, is “discovering that upending animal agriculture is difficult” — even though we’ve been broadcasting that loudly all along.

    …As for Impossible Foods, our products have only been in grocery stores for the past 2-3 years with a pretty small presence. (Remember, we spent the first five years of business in stealth mode.) Since our commercial debut(opens in a new tab), we haven’t done any sustained marketing or advertising to grow awareness or entice new consumers to try our products. Aside from a little help from our friends (👋 Burger King), our audience has mostly found their way to us on their own.

    And yet, Impossible has achieved record sales every year since it first launched on menus, including in 2022. Nearly half of people who try Impossible products purchase them again — a significant and promising retention rate [Impossible Foods, “Bloomberg Was Supposed To Report the Facts. It Became Just Another Opinion Piece,” company blog, 2023.01.22].

    Not that I’m one to believe propaganda from any corporation….

  7. Mark Anderson 2023-01-24 20:01

    You know, I really love impossible burger because it tastes like hamburger and has the basic texture. I said that to a friend who’s a vegetarian and he said why would he want his plants to taste like meat? It was a gotcha moment.

  8. P. Aitch 2023-01-24 21:25

    That’s the crux of the biscuit, Mark. Will vegetarians eat meat if no animal is killed to put it on their plate? Stubborn vegetarians will immediately say no just because they’ve convinced themselves eating meat is wrong. But why is it wrong if no animals die? Moderation when eating meat is a must, though. Fat clogs our blood vessels and will destroy a human without using moderation. I guess it’s up to marketing to answer the question. Will vegetarians buy meat if no animal was harmed?

  9. HydroGuy 2023-01-24 23:31

    Arlo Blundt @ 2023-01-24 13:37

    After learning about the sickening plight of laying hens in industrial factory farms, I did just what you suggested: Using scrap lumber and salvaged lawn mower wheels, I constructed a mobile chicken coop last spring for use in our small-town backyard. By the time our 8 hens were big enough to ascend the ramp to the attic housing the roosting bars and nesting boxes, it was complete. In addition to 32 square feet of fresh grass each day, the ladies spent summer and fall feasting on a smorgasbord of fruit and vegetable scraps from our organic garden and orchard, as well as an assortment of bugs captured by my kids, cicadas and grasshoppers being their favorites. Manure and straw from the coop’s attic was composted and used to nourish the garden–the same plants feeding the chickens, and us.

    In late summer the hens began producing their first small eggs, and a few weeks later the eggs were full size–fortuitously, just in time for skyrocketing egg prices. Inclement weather the first part of November forced me to roll their coop into our attached garage for the duration of the winter, but they’re still reliably producing an average of 6 eggs per day–more than enough for a family of 4, with plenty of leftovers for the kids to sell to eager relatives and neighbors. As you can imagine, the kids have named each chicken and treat them like royalty. But more importantly, it’s imbuing them with an understanding of being responsible caretakers and ethical eaters. Never envisioned myself a small-time chicken farmer, but seeing contented chickens satisfying their natural urges and producing tasty, healthy eggs to boot is a great feeling–as is sticking it to Big Egg and the rest of their cronies in the agriculture-industrial complex.

  10. OLDTIMERdon 2023-01-25 18:07

    I guess the “fake meat” is lower in the chemicals used to force feed livestock producers, so that makesi t much healthier. There is a reason we are seeing massive die offs in many livestock facilities. Think about it! We are part of that food chain.
    We are seeing the end of livestock production to provide food. The economics are simply not there. It is not going to happen immediately, but it has to happen. Smart farmers are shifting production to healthy grains and the profits from these foods are far better than servitude to big ag.

  11. P. Aitch 2023-01-25 20:03

    It’s only a valid look at the drop in plant-based protein sales if you compare that to the bigger drop in slaughtered protein sales.
    – There has been a switch in consumption across the three major meat categories. In 1999, beef had more consumption than chicken or pork. Over the time period, beef consumption declined from 97 pounds per capita in 1999 to 83 pounds in 2020. Pork consumption has remained relatively stable, equally 68 pounds per capita in 1999 and 67 pounds per capita in 2019. Chicken consumption increased from 89 pounds per person in 1999 to 112 pounds per person in 2019. Chicken now has higher per capita meat consumption over beef and pork.

    – Plant based has a solid market of vegetarians and that group grows among young people exponentially.
    – Slaughtered protein is dying. *pun intended – Its only hope is to become USDA PRIME exclusively. Lab grown protein will produce the burger, London broil, round steaks, and the other lesser grades.

  12. Arlo Blundt 2023-01-26 15:17

    Hydro guy–Well done..Pretty elaborate digs for chickens. They are excellent bug eaters and really clean up after a grasshopper invasion.

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