JANET STREET-PORTER: Sorry vegans, but you’ve had your chips! As shoppers finally see through the fake meat con and sales crumble faster than a vegan sausage, I’ll be celebrating with a REAL bacon sandwich
Hoorah! Sales of fake meat products are tanking, mainly because consumers are not prepared to pay three to FIVE times as much for something that looks the same as real meat, tastes pretty similar, but is (allegedly) much better for us because it helps to save the planet and is healthier. Eat a vegan burger and you are nearer to God – or at least your gut is.
Thank goodness consumers are not stupid and are starting to realise than modern veganism is a huge con, a religion with fake gods, and dubious credentials. A set of beliefs that demonise our most cherished dishes, from black pudding to steak and kidney pie.
I will live to be at least 95 and probably a hundred, and I will also cherish a full English breakfast every Saturday morning until my last breath. Real bacon, real black pudding and eggs that have come from a healthy hen. No vegan sausages at JSP Towers! Meat in moderation is my mantra.
Experts say we’re adopting a healthier lifestyle by eating less meat and more oily fish. But we’re not gorging on fake substitutes instead. Beyond Meat, the company that collaborated with McDonald’s to produce the McPlant vegan burger, has seen sales drop by a third in recent months. Backed by boffins in Silicon valley like Bill Gates, along with movie stars like Leo DiCaprio, Beyond Meat has plummeted in value from a valuation of $10billion in 2019 to less than $1billion today.
Back in the UK, Pret a Manger has closed half of its vegetarian and vegan-only stores and a British company – Meatless Farm – has gone bust. Last year, The Vegan Kind – the UK’s first online vegan store – also collapsed. Beyond Meat was one of the biggest producers of vegan meat, and so their slump signifies a major change in buying habits.
Beyond Meat, the company that collaborated with McDonald’s to produce the McPlant vegan burger, has seen sales drop by a third in recent months
Thank goodness consumers are not stupid and are starting to realise than modern veganism is a huge con, a religion with fake gods, and dubious credentials, writes Janet Street-Porter
Shoppers are simply tired of gimmicks and costly meat substitutes, when food prices overall have still not returned to pre-pandemic levels. According to the Grocer magazine, most supermarkets are cutting back on fake meat products by 10%, reducing vegan offerings and concentrating on value ranges.
With some chefs refusing to put vegan dishes on their menus (claiming it’s uneconomic to cater for a tiny minority), is the great Vegan con finally hitting the buffers? The horribly smug movement that aimed to make meat eaters like me feel dirty, unclean, pretty stupid at best, and environmental vandals at worse.
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Vegans make up just 2% at most of the UK population – but that’s an extremely vociferous self-righteous group of people.
Of course, some vegans shun animal products for perfectly understandable religious beliefs, and a minority have been told to restrict their diet for medical reasons. But the vast majority of vegans are sadly deluded if they think that their holier-than-thou dietary regimes will extend their lives and make them happier. There’s no evidence it will, and they have to eat protein from another source (if not meat and fish) to ensure bone density.
Adopting a vegan regime is costing a fortune most can ill afford and it certainly won’t stop global warming. Producing realistic vegan meat is a complex technological achievement involving at least 20 ingredients, protein powders, and E-numbers for flavour and colour. The result is a synthetic concoction more highly processed than most of the junk food vegans despise. It’s certainly more factory-based than a fresh chicken, a leg of lamb or a pack of Tesco’s finest minced steak.
I can’t see the point of giving up meat to eat something that looks exactly the same. Would an Italian Nonna cook the best lasagne for her vegetarian guests using fake meat? I think not. She would substitute a delicious pasta sauce made with unctuous ripe tomatoes, or simple white onions stewed for hours until they make a mouth-watering mess. Italian cuisine is 75% vegetarian – for flavour, for seasonality and for connection to the terrain where the ingredients are grown.
In this country, we import over three-quarters of our food. We are addicted to choice, feasting on strawberries at Christmas and asparagus all year round.
We whinge on about the environment, but we eat air miles by the ton every week.
Huge greenhouses in the UK are heated all year round to produce our insatiable desire for tomatoes, berries and salad, even in winter months
The diet that is commonly held up as the healthiest in Europe, is that of relatively poor peasants living around the Mediterranean. Cucina Povera – the cuisine of the poor – is highly fashionable amongst the dining-out classes. Trendy chefs espouse the slow cooking of the poorest people using cheap cuts of meat, plenty of pulses, seasonable vegetables, the best olive oil and minimal salt- and then they charge a fortune in Michelin-starred restaurants.
The vegan crusade – and the message has been spread with an evangelical fervour – has led to high street retailers jumping on board in the hope of scoring sales from millennials and students, where the vegan movement has had the most converts..
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Some fake meat products have been highly successful: I sampled the Greggs Vegan Sausage roll live on Loose Women on the first day it went on sale in January 2019 – and it didn’t taste bad, especially when smothered in HP brown sauce. When Piers Morgan claimed it was disgusting and had made him sick, sales soared.
The Greggs vegan roll has seen the company’s profits soar and they managed to weather a downturn during the pandemic, launching the chicken-free Cajun roll and even a Southern Fried chicken-free Baguette. Non-meat masquerading as the real stuff, jumping on a fashionable (and for Greggs at least) profitable bandwagon.
The claim that vegan food is healthier than a meat-based diet is plainly rot – the Greggs sausage roll contains almost 9g of saturated fats, 44% of the healthy daily allowance – all in one product. And don’t expect anything ‘deep fried’ to be score very differently.
As for saving the planet, all fake meat uses plant-based ingredients which require water, fertiliser and heat to grow. Ingredients will have been transported from other continents, incurring huge energy costs.
It’s true that huge greenhouses in the UK are heated all year round to produce our insatiable desire for tomatoes, berries and salad, even in winter months. The energy costs are horrendous. Plant-based vegan food is no better.
Vegan foods are often labelled ‘sustainable’- but what does that mean exactly? A chicken from my local farm shop, or potatoes from a farmers market in a local town are all far more ‘sustainable’ than a vegan sausage roll or a McPlant burger and involve less energy and air miles.
Saving the planet means saving farming jobs, saving small businesses, protecting the local landscape and helping your community. The message about eating less meat for health reasons is thankfully getting through to people, but we’re certainly not going to give it up.
Once again, the British public have proved that they are savvy shoppers. The great Vegan con is finally heading for the slop bucket.
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