Just my thoughts
by Aditya Hingne

This is not Meat!

I have never consumed meat in my life. This was never a problem for me. Indian cuisine contains the largest number of vegetarian dishes in the world. A slight problem does arise when my family steps outside of the house. For a long time, my family was limited in the places we could go to and the food we could eat. We have never been to a McDonald's. We stay clear from KFC. Since we've been vegetarian all our lives, we have been placed at an advantage. We have learned to manage and can find places that serve vegetarian food. Some people start out and meat eaters, but then make a choice to go vegan or vegetarian, even if they are enormous fans of meat. 2019 has seen the increased popularity of Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat. These brands produce plant-based meat and have begun to partner with many major chain restaurants to sell this "meat." What lead to these chains making that decision?

"Strategic decisions are long-term decisions that will place the business at a profitable position." If so many restaurants chains are adopting plant based meat, it means that there is a market for it. It wasn't long ago were vegan and vegetarians would be at the ends of offensive jokes. This has since changed. According to Forbes there has been a 600% increase (1% to 6%) in the number of individuals who have gone vegan or vegetarian since 2014 to 2017 in the United States. This data didn't include the "flexitarians." These are the individuals who are not full fledged vegan, but simply prefer plant-based meat compared to regular meat. 6% of the United States population is 19.542 million Americans. Restaurants chains are losing out on 19.542 million potential customers. If these potential customers cannot receive food from these restaurants, then they will spend their money on packaged products instead. Sales of plant-based foods in grocery stores grew by 17%, in tandem with the growth of the vegan market. This is especially significant when considering that the overall US grocery store sales only increased by 2%. Now 95% of grocery stores in the United States sell plant-based food. Restaurants and grocery stores are different industries, but both deal with food consumption. Clearly, restaurants chains noticed the attractive profit numbers grocery stores would release due to plant-based alternatives. There are around 23 restaurants chains in the United States that either serve the Impossible Food or Beyond Meat.

What resulted in the growth of veganism anyway? According to the BBC, people normally change their food lifestyles for one, or a combination, of the following reasons. The first is that many people are disturbed by the idea that their food was once a sentient being. This ethical argument has resulted in many becoming vegan as a simple means to protest against animal cruelty. The second issue is environmental. The world population is not getting smaller, and it will continue to grow for hundreds of years. A growing number of meat consumers means a growing number of livestock. They deplete land, require significant water-use, and consume crops. These are resources that could otherwise go to humans. The flatulence of cows has also been found to release methane, a greenhouse gas that is more effective at trapping heat and warming the planet than carbon-dioxide. Some of those in the developed world, who have been privileged enough to have the opportunity to learn about the environmental effects of eating meat do make the decision to go vegan. The third if health. It is a myth that vegan diets lack certain nutrients. Vegan diets can create perfectly rounded meals and they reduce the risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer. Through the intense spread of this information, more and more people have become opted to become vegan.

How did this information spread? America as a society loves its celebrities. A majority of the highest paid actors, musicians, and athletes make most of their money from endorsements rather than their actual line of work. Americans follow their favorite celebrities on the internet, specifically their social media, very closely. So when people like Natalie Portmann, Ellen Degeneres, or Madonna reveals that they are vegan, their millions of followers are likely to take notice, and may perhaps even be interested enough to undergo some more research. People now have an incentive to change their food habits. Social media is an important component in understanding the vegan trend. Going vegan used to be rare because it would be something that a person would have to do by themselves. Now, there are over 126 million instagram posts related to vegan food. Animal rights organization PETA has 1.1 million followers on twitter. Social media has not only given people an outlet to learn about veganism, but it allows for those who are already vegan to find and build a community with other vegans. Katie Pevreall, a UK based journalists, believes that this is the ultimate reason why plant-based meat alternatives have become so popular. Now there is an online community that discusses vega food on a daily basis. With so many conversations about vegan food, the standard has gone up. People don't just want to replace a burger patty with black beans. Even the mock meat products that already existed have been deemed by many as subpar. Vegan now want the full experience: the texture, the taste, the juiciness. They want meat, without eating meat.

Then one day, Carl's Junior announced they would introduce a plant based burger, and the burger made money. Soon more chains followed. More chains earned money. The demand for the burgers is unprecedented. CNN reported that Impossible Foods has seen growth in every sales category: "small restaurants, chains, theme parks and college campuses." Many locations have reported that they have ran out of Impossible Food. The product will be made available in about 1,500 colleges, corporate cafeterias, and even hospitals. People love having a healthy meat alternative. In August of 2019, KFC announced they would test plant-based chicken with Beyond Meat. In that same month Starbucks announced they would also be testing a plant-based alternative. The next month McDonald's, the largest and most wealthy restaurant chain, announced testing a partnership with Beyond Meat.

Switching to vegan is no longer a struggle. The same food lifestyle can be maintained. People are just eating more plants, and they can barely taste the difference.

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