Going into 2020, there’s continued excitement and concern for alternative meat products and their benefits. Area beef and now pork producers are watching the markets carefully to see the initial impacts on farm production in northern Iowa. The question remains if it will impact it at all.
There are other concerns too. An Iowa-based expert says consumers should learn more about them. Over the past year, the food world buzzed over items such as plant-based hamburgers, which are designed to taste like meat but have less impact on the environment than animal-based products. There’s also a perception they are healthier to eat.
Ruth Litchfield is a professor of food science and human nutrition at Iowa State University. She said the environmental benefits are there, but the health benefits may not be.
For example, Litchfield said some plant-based burgers on the market are higher in saturated fat and sodium than the meat they are meant to replace. She said they also have less protein and a lower-quality protein.
She said much of the perceptions mirror what happened when many different styles of milk hit the market in recent years. The Impossible Foods company recently unveiled plans for an alternative to pork. That has some worried about how it might harm producers in Iowa, which is the leading pork-producing state in the U.S. But Litchfield said it’s too early to say how the new products might affect existing industries.
Despite some of the hype and popularity surrounding alternative meat products, research has shown the U.S. consumption of traditional meat has rebounded in recent years.