According to ScienceScope’s newest infographic, it can cost as much as 10 percent of a typical Briton’s income to get a protein shake, and the life expectancy of an American who dines on meat is 35 years shorter than that of a non-meat eater.
This creates quite a potential problem for plant-based meat. As a population, the West is not exactly known for its sophisticated—let alone puny—lifestyle and eating habits. On top of that, the meat industry is huge in the US, and there are fears that what would otherwise be an exciting and growing market is not going to be able to attract enough young and healthy people into the industry in the coming years. What consumers do get, however, is a vibrant, puny country that burns fossil fuels, outputs enough pollution to fill a downtown Manhattan and supports an outsize, damaging consumer culture, seemingly on a whim. And though the impetus for helping others might be altruistic in the United States, it can end up killing people when the companies that produce it actually decides to market it.
Worldwide, plant-based meat has yet to really take off. Meat consumption in India rose at double the rate of that in the United States. At the same time, today’s vegetarian practices — eating less meat and using vegetarian as a euphemism for veganism—are starting to emerge as the new normal.
Nevertheless, as ScienceScope points out, both the animal agriculture industry and traditional diets face growing social pressure to adopt far less destructive models. Which is why progress on plant-based meat is so critical.