Veganism is the practice of abstaining from products that are derived from animals. When on one hand it is being vegan is particularly seen as refraining from eating the products that are associated with animals, it also showcases the idea of not using any substance that is linked to animals. For example, refraining from cow milk, traditional paneer, cheese, yogurt, or even commodities derived from animals such as leather.
A vegan is a stricter vegetarian who also avoids consuming dairy, eggs, and any other ingredients derived from animals.
Vegetarian diets have reportedly been around since as early as 700 B.C.Several types exist, and individuals may practice them for a variety of reasons. These include health, ethics, environmentalism, and religion. Vegan diets appeared a little more recently, but have been getting a good amount of press.
This article takes a look at how veganism has impacted farming and agriculture
Impact on Farming
Veganism is undeniably on the rise in the UK. According to the Vegan Society, 42 percent of UK vegans made the choice to go meat-and-dairy-free in 2018, showing how rapidly the movement is picking up in recent years. Whether we’re making a conscious effort to lower our red meat intake or we’re grabbing some compost bags and heading outside to grow our own vegetables for a healthier lifestyle, plant-based diets are enjoying positive press and the enviable limelight.
1. Meat Industry on Radar
At the start of 2019, a record 250,000 people signed up for Veganuary in the UK — nearly double the amount that signed up in 2018. But despite the record sign-up, a report by Agriland suggested that the figures weren’t reflected in meat, fish, and poultry sales for January. In fact, these markets did not feel any noticeable impact, the outlet claims.
Though the sales of plant-based products obviously increased, this was not apparent at any cost to animal produce sales. Beef, lamb, and turkey were the only products to decline during the period, with processed meats being the worst hit. Sales of fish, meanwhile, continued to enjoy overall growth.
2. Reduction of dairy
In July 2019, the Guardian reported that 25 percent of Brits were opting for plant-based kinds of milk. Much like the Vegan Society’s note of veganism shooting up in the UK in 2018, this shift to plant-based milk also occurred during 2018, with a sales surge of 70 percent for oat alternative milk.
While the dairy industry could hardly be described as ‘suffering’ from the switch, it is certainly falling from grace. While the over-45 age bracket is still opting for cow’s milk (92 percent), there’s less demand amongst 16- to 24- year olds (73 percent). Overall. the go-to health drink of the 50s is consumed far infrequently in the modern day, with the average person drinking 50 percent less now than in the 1950s.
But while sales of cow’s milk have decreased, it is still the largest market within the dairy and dairy-alternative industry. Currently, the impact of veganism on the dairy market is deemed minimal, but if the downward trend of animal dairy continues as veganism rises in the coming years, we could yet see that impact increase. The global vegan cheese market is expected to hit $1.58 billion in Europe alone by 2023, meaning consumers are definitely expected to continue to shift away from animal-based dairy.
3. Reduction of red meat
Whether people choose to adopt a vegan lifestyle or simply decide to reduce the amount of meat in their diets, limiting the consumption of animal products could be detrimental to good health. Red meat has certainly suffered a negative image in recent years, and a number of studies have posited a link between consuming high amounts of red meat and increasing the risk of cancers of the colon. Therefore, it’s no surprise that people are looking to cut back on it.
But how is this dietary shift changing the UK red meat market, and indeed, the wider agricultural sector?
According to The Scottish Farmer, there are a number of factors affecting the red meat market specifically. One is the aforementioned health concerns, and another is the ongoing uncertainty of Brexit negotiations. There is also a push from those who are motivated by environmental concerns and see veganism as a proactive way to contribute toward reducing the impact of climate change on the world. In July 2019, the outlet reported that beef values had declined compared to this time last year, with an R3L steer valued at 353.8p per kg, whereas in 2018 it was valued at 393.5p
It may not seem like a significant figure, but as The Scottish Farmer points out, this means that a whole lorry load of finished cattle is worth £5,000 less this year than it was in 2019.
Plus, with surveys showing that around 37 percent of consumers were actively looking to eat less red meat, it doesn’t look like this downward trend in red meat prices isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. While we might not be experiencing a universal switch to full veganism, the growing appeal of a ‘flexitarian’ diet or semi-vegetarian approach has been marked as one of the biggest issues facing the farming sector.
4. Reduction of meat overall
One report has suggested that most of the meat consumed in 2040 will not come from animals. In fact, it has been suggested by the year 2040 that 60 percent of the meat consumed will be grown in vats or grown from a plant-based source.
This cultured meat, or plant-based ‘meats’, are touted to be more efficient, less harmful to the environment, and arguably morally sound, given that no animal would need to die for vat-grown meat. The major barrier right now is for this meat alternative to be financially accessible to all, which is where some say the livestock-based meat industry will continue to trump lab-grown meat for the foreseeable future.
Currently, the impact of veganism on farming seems to be limited to a small scale, with variables such as Brexit and health matters impacting the red meat market specifically. But with the surge of people choosing to go vegan, it could very well be the case that the effects are simply still in the making.