While meat substitutes continue to sell like hot cakes – or, more accurately, hot dogs – Americans aren’t wild about how the new crop of faux beef and pork products are manufactured – or about their similarity to the real thing.
So say respondents in Coast Packing Company’s most recent Animal Fats Study, conducted in mid-August among 1,004 consumers nationwide by Ipsos Research. On the table were attitudes assessing the relative merits of processed foods, including artificial meat substitutes, and natural animal fats, across five fundamental variables – taste, texture, aroma, flavor and healthiness.
Consumers were asked: “In thinking about the characteristics of the foods you eat, do you prefer natural foods (sourced from raw and/or animal-based ingredients, with few additives) or highly processed foods (vegetable oil-based food items like hydrogenated oils, palm oil, margarine and spreads, etc.) with regard to each of the following factors?”
Respondents gave the highest mark (88 percent) to natural foods for “healthiness,” followed by “texture” (79 percent), “aroma” (78 percent) “taste” (73 percent) and “flavor” (72 percent). Where highly processed foods were concerned, “healthiness” finished dead last, at 12 percent. Within the highly processed realm, flavor came out on top, at 28 percent, with taste (27 percent), aroma (22 percent) and texture (21 percent) following in turn.
The findings ratify the first joint Coast Packing Company/Healthy Fats Coalition (HFC) Animal Fats Ipsos study, fielded in late February 2020, just prior to the pandemic. In the 2020 survey, almost two-thirds of Americans said they believe that natural fats — lard, beef tallow, butter, chicken fat, duck fat, etc. — are healthier than processed foods. Only 15 percent said processed foods are healthier than natural fats, and 22 percent didn’t know.
Building on those results, the latest study shows that sentiment is even more clear-cut on the question of “highly processed” vs. “natural” foods. Overall, almost two-thirds indicated that they know that plant-based meat is a highly processed food.