In traditional Chinese culture, eating meat is a symbol of wealth and financial comfort. This cultural connection between prosperity and meat consumption as well as China’s expanding middle class (which has been growing since the 1970s) contributes to the high percentage of meat-eaters in the country’s population.
China consumes 50 percent of all the world’s pork and 28 percent of all meats, however rising concerns over health issues and carbon emissions are encouraging people to revise how much of their daily food intake is comprised of meat and meat products.
The Chinese government is encouraging this shift in mindset, and back in 2016 decided to regulate the country’s meat consumption as part of its pledge to lower carbon emissions. They ambitiously put plans in place to reduce meat intake by half. To convince their population to eat less meat, they launched a series of public information adverts that feature director James Cameron and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, encouraging viewers to only eat 40-75g of meat a day.
The younger generation is more willing to incorporate plant-based meat alternatives into their diet than their predecessors. Now, it is not uncommon to see popular food chains like KFC promoting vegan chicken nuggets on city streets.
Other international chains like Burger King and Starbucks also offer meatless options like the Impossible Whopper and Beyond Meat salads, wraps, and pasta plates. In fact, many of China’s cosmopolitan cities have their own communities and social media groups who have pledged to adopt a meat-free lifestyle and are hungry for more options.
Domestic chains and companies are also starting to embrace the meatless movement. OmniFoods supplies its meat-alternative product, OmniPork, in a Hong Kong McDonald’s, Aldi, White Castle, and a mainland Starbucks. Z-Rou also has a plant-based mince substitute being served in some of China’s top hospitals, international schools, and businesses. Zhenmeat currently has plant-based crayfish, beef, and pork, while Starfield promotes a seaweed-based mince alternative that is served in some of China’s leading restaurant chains.
Around the world, more and more consumers are beginning to embrace plant-based diets for health and environmental reasons. This update from China is encouraging evidence that the movement towards plant protein is gaining momentum and we hope to see it continue to spread in the US and around the world.