Veganism is a trend that has been rapidly gaining popularity in recent years, with vegan food manufacturing in soaring, but now it seems that the Australian meat and dairy industry could be under threat as a result.
According to industry research company IBISWorld, sales of vegan food products have soared over the past five years in Australia and so too has the cost of meat and international meat exports. Rising prices and stagnant domestic demand have driven Australia’s meat and dairy sectors to look overseas in search of revenue growth.
“The quality of these products is also increasing at a rapid pace, with plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy foods continuously being launched. Unilever recently launched a plant-based alternative to its Magnum ice cream products, and popular food chains Hungry Jacks, Schnitz and Grill’d have all recently added plant-based options to their menus, in an attempt to take advantage of rising demand,” said IBISWorld senior industry analyst, James Caldwell.
“This surging demand for plant-based alternatives represents a growing threat to local demand for meat and dairy products, which will in turn affect the long-term viability of the Australian Meat Processing, Beef Cattle Farming, Cheese Manufacturing, Butter and Dairy Product Manufacturing, and Milk and Cream Processing industries. The Australian Meat Processing industry now generates over 60 per cent of its revenue from overseas, and we expect this number to rise over the next five years.”
Food-based innovations have allowed manufacturers to produce plant-based foods that look and taste like meat products. Companies such as Beyond Meat and Funky Fields are now producing meat alternatives that are so realistic, they are being sold next to meat products in supermarkets. Analysts at IBISWorld said this now means plant-based alternatives are comparable to traditional meat in terms of both quality and price.
“The quality of these products is only expected to improve. Eric Schmidt, the director of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, recently listed plant-based proteins as the most important trend in the technology industry, ahead of self-driving cars and 3D printing. As new technology allows the quality of these products to improve, so will demand,” said Caldwell.
With Australians increasingly concerned about their impact on the environment, analysts believe this to be a factor behind the rise in demand for plant-based products. The meat and dairy sectors have been considered to have a large carbon footprint by environmental organisations, with research finding animal-based agriculture responsible for 18 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.
Rising health consciousness is another major driving force behind the trend towards greater consumption of plant-based foods. Meat products and in particular processed meats, have long been considered to hold increased health risks, while dairy products have been linked to increased saturated fat intake. As a result, plant-based milk alternatives are increasing in popularity.
According to IBISWorld, the number of people following a vegan diet in Australia is expected to continue rising over the next five years.
Vegan activists blamed for closure of Vic cafe
On Sunday, the Gippy Goat Cafe in West Gippsland, Victoria announced that it is closing its doors after what owners say is “nearly 4 months of constant harassment, vile statements and threats from the abusive vegan activists”.
“We have personally been subjected to an appalling stream of threats of extreme violence against ourselves, our family, our staff and even their families,” operators John and Penny said on Facebook.
“Our staff have been subjected to daily threats and harassment by phone, and we cannot in good conscience ask them to continue working under such a condition.”
The operators said the courts have proven to be “ineffectual”.
“Eight good people are now without a job, families no longer can enjoy the good food and open space, and children can no longer interact with our animals,” it said.
Animal activists held a co-ordinated nationwide protest on Monday calling on state and federal agriculture ministers to listen to several demands relating to animal cruelty, AAP reported today.
On Monday morning, nine activists were arrested after chaining themselves to machinery in a NSW abattoir, while 38 were arrested in Melbourne when activists blocked off streets in the CBD during peak hour.