The meat industry is facing an 'unprecedented' challenge from the burgeoning demand for plant-based alternatives, according to leading food speciality magazine The Grocer.
In a special report about the growing vegan sector, the news outlet looked at how the meat industry is 'under attack' from those questioning the 'ethics, sustainability and health credentials of the meat industry'.
As noted by The Grocer, plant-based alternatives are becoming increasingly available for consumers. This week, supermarket Waitrose was the first in the UK to launch a vegan-only section, complete with an additional 50 meat-free products.
According to Chloe Graves, Waitrose Chilled Vegetarian and Vegan Buyer, the products were added due to customer demand. She said: "Our current selection of products has been selling really well week after week, with requests for more choice coming from our customers and partners, so we could clearly see there was an appetite to have more vegetarian and vegan options in our shops.
"Increasing our range builds on the work we did last year to increase choice for our customers in this area. We are working with some fantastic exclusive brands to ensure our shoppers have a really unique selection of food to choose from."
Sell-out vegan steak
Tesco - which was voted as the top UK supermarket for vegans in a recent poll- has taken significant strides this year in catering to vegan customers. Last year, the store announced it was hiring chef Derek Sarno as its Head of Plant Based Innovation.
In January, it launched a 20-product range of vegan ready meals and grab-and-go options, called Wicked Healthy, created by Sarno in collaboration with his brother Chad.
The Grocer noted Tesco's listing for Vivera's sell-out vegan steaks - almost 40,000 of which were sold within days of its launch last month.
Eating Animals will hit screens this Summer
In addition to product availability, consumers are being encouraged 'to ask probing questions about meat and cut down consumption', according to the report, which highlights Eating Animals - a new documentary produced by Natalie Portman set to hit screens later this month - as part of the 'growing attack' against the meat industry.
Dominion is another documentary (not mentioned by The Grocer), which has been accused of unfairly attacking the meat industry. The feature-length film directed by Chris Delforce and co-produced by Earthlings director Shaun Monson focuses on how animals are used and abused in Australia, featuring footage from abattoirs and farms*.
Earlier this year, pro-animal agriculture groups blasted the film, saying it presents a biased view, and calling its representation of the meat industry 'upsetting'. Australian Meat Industry Council Chief Executive, Patrick Hutchinson, said: "What the film shows is not representative of the practices of the wider industry.
"The vast majority of businesses and the vast majority of their employees are deeply committed to ensuring the most humane experience possible for animals."
While a slew of meat industry experts told The Grocer they would be keeping an eye on the growing plant-based sector, others dismissed it as a 'fad', with one producer saying: "It's not doing us a lot of good, but I think it’s more fad than a fact. However, if it continues, it may have a marginal impact on our business."
But Jane King, CEO of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board [AHDB] said meat producers need to take note, saying: "The meat trade needs to respond by reviewing its offer to consumers...New types of businesses will innovate. The meat companies' culture is old school, wanting to make as much money as possible."
"The industry needs to be less fragmented and join forces around common goals."
*Plant Based News is co-hosting the UK premiere of Dominion in central London later this month. You canfind out more here