Why are Plant-Based Meats So Expensive?

why is plant based meat expensive

The higher cost of meat replacements is caused by a few factors - demand, cost to produce, less competition, they’re a newer product, and finally, unlike the meat industry, meat replacements receive little to no subsidisation from the government.

However, not all meat replacements are going to break the bank!

Tofu, tempeh and chickpeas are also great meat replacements nutritionally, yet are relatively inexpensive. 

These foods are often dismissed when people consider meat replacements because they don’t replicate the look or taste of meat.

In this post I’ll go into a bit more detail on why meat replacements are so expensive, as well as how you can replicate meat in your dishes without spending too much money. 

So, let’s get started! 

why are plant-based meats so expensive


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there is less demand for plant-based meats

Globally the demand for plant-based meats is less than the demand for traditional meats by a whopping 941 billion USD.

Although the demand for plant-based meat alternatives is growing at a record breaking rate there is still a much lower demand for this than traditional meat. 

The global demand for plant-based meats currently sits at roughly 3.3 billion USD

Where as the global demand for traditional meats currently sits at roughly 945 billion USD 

This is a massive difference! 

Until the demand between the two is more balanced is unlikely there will be the same amount of investment into plant-based meats as there already is for transitional meat products. 

why are meat replacements so expensive

mock meats have High Production Costs

More complicated or less established production processes have led to high production costs for mock meats. This is mainly down to R&D, supply chain and infrastructure.

The simple fact is that most plant-based meat replacements are highly processed and have higher costs to produce

Creating plants that look and taste like meat is a serious feat and takes a considerable amount of research and development costs to get the best products out there. 

This, of course, increases costs. 

why are plant-based meats more expensive

less competition

At the moment this is a free market for the main meat replacement companies - little competition with a growing demand. 

Companies will always charge as much as people will pay, and with only a few companies producing meat replacement products people are willing to pay a higher cost for these products. 

The good news is that more competition is coming into the market (as to be expected when larger companies get a whiff of the possible revenue to be made) so eventually companies will have to become more competitive in their pricing. 

why is plant based meat expensive

the meat industry is heavily subsidised

Reports suggest that the US government spend $38billion every year subsidising the meat and dairy industry, while less than one percent of this figure goes to subsidising the growth of fruits and vegetables.

This has a huge impact on the cost of traditional meat production.

It’s not just the US where this practice takes place. In the UK it is estimated that £3.4 billion is spent on meat and dairy subsidies, while in the EU this figure is at least 28 billion.

why are plant based meats more expensive

how to save money on meat replacements

It’s likely that as you transition to a plant-based diet you will end up spending slightly more than you normally would on your weekly grocery shopping. 

This is because people tend to substitute meat sausages or burgers for plant-based sausages or burgers, and these plant-based meats are normally expensive. 

The temptation of vegan sausage rolls, chick'n nuggets and burgers will get to you, but once you’ve experienced all these weird and wonderful plant-based meat options you will settle into a new routine with your food and what you spend every week will go back to pre-transition levels. 

Of course, if you go straight for a whole foods plant-based option then you won't have this issue. 

Here are three really basic tips to make plant-based meats less expensive,

  • Meal Plan

    This is by far the best way to save yourself money. Plan your meals so when you go shopping you already know what you need to buy.  Then you can go in, get what you need (and only that) and get out!  Obviously, this will only work if you do stick to your grocery list and not get distracted by the aforementioned weird, wonderful and expensive plant-based meats.

  • Adjust Recipes

    Some plant-based recipes can be very complicated with tons of (often unnecessary) ingredients.  One way to save money is to cut some of those unnecessary ingredients out of the recipe - chances are that ditching ½tsp of some spice you’ve never heard of isn't going to make a huge difference to the taste of the recipe but it may save you a few dollars.  This way you can splash on the more expensive plant-based meats occasionally while saving money elsewhere. 

  • Experiment

    I don't mean that you should go out and buy a whole host of new ingredients to experiment with.  Just that rather than going straight to the expensive plant-Based meats you should find a tofu recipe that looks like it could be a winner and give it a go.  Finding these cheaper recipes that you enjoy will save you money in the long run, even if you have to waste money on a few bad ones now.

If you’re all about the mock meats then check out our ‘Chorizo’ Vegetable Traybake recipe or ‘Chorizo’ Gnocchi recipe for some simple and delicious one pan meals. 

Prefer to go with more natural meat replacements? 

Head on over to our Tomato and Bean Bake recipe, Tofu and Potato Hash recipe or Chickpea Enchilada recipe for some simple and tasty recipe ideas that use cheaper ingredients. 

The demand for plant-based products on the rise  [this link will take you to a Forbes article], the plant-based industry is becoming more competitive, and production costs are being streamlined. 

This should all lead to more competitive pricing and readily available products.

However, with the huge subsidies our governments are spending on meat and dairy farms keeping meat and dairy costs down, will demand ever reach high enough levels to make a substantial impact?  

What do you think of meat replacements? Do you think Beyond Burgers are worth the cost or are you sticking to tofu and chickpeas for now? 

Ultimately for me it’s about balance. 

I eat plenty of meals using chickpeas, lentils or tofu as the star of the show. Yet I also enjoy a plant-based burger or sausage. 

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