How Many Zillennials Actually Embrace the Meat-Free Movement?
This article was written by The Zillennial Zine’s spring editorial intern Megan Pavek. Find her on Instagram at @megan.pavek. If you would like to share an article with The Zillennial, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
These days, it’s hard to visit a grocery store or restaurant without seeing one plant-based item. Alternative milks have become a staple at coffee shops, as have meat and cheese alternatives at other stores. Even if you can’t find, at the very least, an impossible burger on the restaurant menu, look no further than the nearest Burger King for a quick meal in a pinch. All this points to Zillennials in the midst of a generational shift as the plant-based food market continues to grow.
Most households have come to accept, if not prefer, meat alternatives for at least one weekly meal (hello meatless Monday!) Meanwhile others are wondering, is the impossible burger good for you? As “fake meat” becomes more mainstream, more consumers are reaching for it as a convenient substitute in a society that still revolves around the meat and dairy industry. While things feel like they have been slowly shifting in favor of vegetarians and vegans, how much are they really changing?
There is data to prove that the number of vegan and vegetarians have been slowly, if not steadily, growing with each passing year. However, younger people are becoming more fluid with their diets and tend to forgo strict regimens. For example, many consumers (myself included) will prefer to cook plant-based meals at home, but eat meat socially out of convenience. It’s easy to relate- cooking vegetarian or even vegan is likely cheaper, and easier for young adults. Plus, you get to skip the part where you inevitably gag while handling raw chicken.
The Conversation reports that 10% of Americans over the age of 18 identify as either vegan or vegetarian as of January 2022. This information is based on an online survey that was conducted by the aforementioned publication. It’s important to note that previous generations chose to forgo meat and or dairy to avoid negative impacts on their religious and cultural beliefs, or personal health. Today’s generations are being urged by environmentalists to quit meat and dairy in an effort to decrease global greenhouse emissions that are negatively impacting the planet.
An example of a lifestyle that allows Zillennials to be fluid with their eating habits but still prioritize plant-based is the Flexitarian Diet. This is the optimal choice, or middle ground, for many consumers who enjoy and prefer to eat vegetarian or vegan meals without fully cutting out meat and still enjoying animal products in moderation. To this, an opinion column in the New York Times makes a great point: “there’s an inherent conflict in asking people to change their eating habits because of climate change when government policy puts few restraints on polluting industries.” Some may feel that it’s not their duty to fully adopt a strict vegan or vegetarian diet for the sake of the environment, but they still want to help in smaller ways.
The Rise in Plant-Based Food
So, back to the original question: is the impossible burger good for you? A majority of the population believes these substitutes must be better than taboo red meat, but still don’t actually understand how plant-based alternatives are made. According to a Bon Appetit article, most alternative meats are made from “pea, soy, or wheat protein that’s usually listed as an isolate in the ingredients.” They are also likely to contain a fat such as coconut oil, a gum or thicker to bind everything together, tree fiber, sometimes modified food starch, salt, and of course artificial flavors to mimic the taste of meat. Surprisingly, some products also include vitamins and minerals that would be found in natural beef to truly replicate the original product.
At the end of the day, burgers, nuggets, and sausages are not very good for you whether they’re plant-based or real meat. Planted-based meats do provide a strong source of fiber, but the same amount of saturated-fat and sodium (if not more!). All of these foods should be consumed in moderation, but meat alternatives will continue to be a convenient swap for those looking to skip animal products and decrease their carbon footprint!
Do you identify as a vegetarian, vegan or flexitarian? Do you consume plant-based meats? What are your opinions on these popular products? Let us know in the comments below!