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Tried “Meat” and Never Thought You Would? Here’s Why

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While we’ve been ordering takeout during the pandemic, many of us have also been cooking at home more than before and becoming quite the master chefs. 

What have we been cooking? Ben Frost, head of Mergers and Acquisitions of Goldman Sachs’ Consumer Retail Group said as recently as May that there’s been a higher demand for staples like rice, soup and pasta.

We've also had a growing appetite for meat. Data from Nielsen shows that meat sales at grocery stores and other retailers rose 43% for the eight-week period ending April 25, 2020, compared to that same period in 2019. 

But, if you’ve seen empty shelves in the meat aisles, it’s not just because of larger appetites. Covid-19 has sickened employees at some of the nation’s meat processing centers. This has meant fewer workers have been available to handle and package meat . . .  leading to low supplies. Some grocers even limited the amount of meat products customers could buy. 

While some meat-processing facilities have reopened, meat prices are higher. The USDA says beef and veal prices were up 10.9% from April to May 2020, and 5.5% from May to June 2020.

Meanwhile sales for plant-based meat alternatives have skyrocketed. Forbes found that some of the major meat-alternative companies have reported sales increases around 40-70% in the last few months. 

But plant “meat” isn’t necessarily cheap. Barron’s did a head-to-head price comparison and found some meat alternatives cost more per pound than the real thing. 

Will the meat alternative trend continue? We don’t know. However, the recent uptick in meat substitutes had us look into food supply questions. Not surprisingly, there is an environmental argument for sticking with plants. 

Part of the reason has to do with pollution: Livestock are responsible for what the BBC calls “a hefty slice of global greenhouse emissions.” One reason is that when livestock pass gas, their own stinky “emissions” release methane, a greenhouse gas, into the air. 

The benefits of dialing back on food like meat and chicken could include reducing greenhouse emissions and freeing up some land.

But earth-friendly food choices may not be limited to meat alternatives. The BBC reported on an effort to make cows less gassy. The report said methane traps even more heat than carbon dioxide and scientists are testing a vaccine that could limit it by altering a cow’s gut microbes. 

The BBC said reducing methane could mean “beef without the blame.”

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for individualized professional advice. Articles on this site were commissioned and approved by Marcus by Goldman Sachs®, but may not reflect the institutional opinions of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., Goldman Sachs Bank USA or any of their affiliates, subsidiaries or divisions.