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Animal farmers have blasted vegan meat as ‘industrialized and processed’ amid reports that Tesco wants to boost plant-based meat sales by 300 percent by 2025.

The comments were made by National Sheep Association (NSA) chief executive Phil Stocker, who also criticized Asda which recently announced it will introduce vegan aisles and new animal-free products in 359 of its U.K stores.

Sustainable Basket Metric

Tesco has partnered WWF in a bid to become more sustainable. The organizations launched their Sustainable Basket Metric in 2019. 

The metric measures the environmental impacts of food across seven different categories: climate change; deforestation; sustainable diets; sustainable agriculture; marine sustainability; food waste; and packaging waste.

As part of making diets more sustainable, Tesco wants to sell more vegan meat, and is introducing strategies to do so including increasing the availability of plant meat across all stores, offering ‘affordable’ options so that cost is not a barrier to buying plant-based meat alternatives, and working with food producers so they can bring innovative new products to market.

‘Industrialized and processed foods’

But Phil Stocker has blasted the move, releasing a statement saying: “We are now seeing mass-produced industrialized and processed foods being dressed up as sustainable food options, and here we have two of our biggest retailers setting growth targets based on them being better for consumers health and for the environment.

“Unsurprisingly there are no targets for increasing the sales of fresh fruit and vegetables and it looks as though this could be another means of increasing profit margins through adding ‘value’ through intensive food processing and highly packaged products.”

He added that he felt that boosting British lamb sales would be a better option, saying: “In terms of British lamb once you look at nutrient density, the unprocessed nature of our product, land use, the ability to produce mainly from grass alone, the semi-natural, extensive method of sheep farming, the thousands of family farms, and the symbiotic relationship with nature both within and above the soil, then lamb starts to look like a highly sustainable food.”

The vegan meat sector is projected to surge in the coming years (Photo: Adobe. Do not use without permission)

Environment

However, Tanya Steele, WWF CEO, praised Tesco for the ‘sector-leading’ move, saying that ‘tackling the environmental impact of what we eat and how we produce it has never been so urgent’. 

“The food system has been identified as the biggest culprit, but also presents one of the greatest opportunities to reverse this trend; rebalancing our diets is a critical part of that,” she added. “Food businesses cannot have a sustainable future without transparency. They need to know where they are starting from in order to know where they are going.

“Our partnership with Tesco aims to halve the environmental footprint of the average shopping basket, but we need a sector-wide step-change in transparency and accountability to achieve the scale and pace of change that is so desperately needed. We ask all food businesses to join us on this journey.”

Vegan meat sales

Criticism of vegan meat comes as the global market is set to hit $21 billion within five years, according to published earlier this year by Zion Market Research.

The report, which predicts compound annual growth rate of 8.6 percent between 2019 and 2025, describes vegan meat as ‘a popular trend on menu cards at large’.

It cites a number of factors for this growth, including growing concerns around the sustainability of traditional meat, alongside the improvement of meat alternatives.

‘Growing concerns’

The report says: “The growing concerns regarding the environmental impact and sustainability of the meat industry are the major growth driver of the global plant-based meat market.

“The growing concerns regarding the sustainability of livestock production, meat availability, and change in food preferences have led to many people opting for meat substitutes. This has immensely benefitted the plant-based meat market globally.

“In addition, the science behind making plant-based meat has also improved and allowed manufacturers to experiment and come up with the perfect meat substitute.”

Maria Chiorando

Maria is the editor of Plant Based News. As a former magazine editor, newspaper reporter, and features writer, her work has been published by The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and various regional newspapers, as well as Vegan Life magazine and Vegan Trade Journal. She has interviewed a huge range of people, from Prime Ministers to authors, activists, pop stars and actors, and enjoys the varied range of topics writing for PBN allows her to tackle.