Economic Tidbits

Demand for Meat Alternatives Slipping

Nebraska’s cattle, hog, and poultry producers have been anxiously watching the creation and development of meat alternatives over the past several years. Plant-based and lab-grown meat alternatives compete with traditional meat products at the meat counter. Producers worry alternative meats will find their way onto consumer plates and steal market share from traditional meats.

Jason Lusk, an agricultural economist with Purdue University, suggests the substitution of alternative meats for traditional meats is not occurring, at least in recent months. Lusk looked at data on sales of meat and meat alternatives from IRI, a seller of grocery store scanner data. The data shows sales of meat alternatives have been trending downward since August. In contrast, sales of beef, chicken, pork, and turkey are higher (Figure 1). Even more interesting, prices for meat alternatives are lower compared to last year while prices for traditional meat items are higher. Lusk comments, “Taken together, these two facts are strong evidence that demand (i.e., consumers’ willingness-to-pay) for meat alternatives has fallen.”

The time period Lusk examined is short. The short-term trends might not be reflective of long-term trends. But Lusk’s findings do suggest meat alternatives, at least for the time being, are struggling to find room on consumer plates.

Figure 1. Change in Weekly Sales, 2021 vs. 2020

Source: Jason Lusk Blog, Nov. 17, 2021, based on IRI data

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