Which is more economical, plant protein vs animal protein?

As we enter 2024, many people are making decisions aimed at changing their diets and budgets, and the discussion of protein becomes an inevitable topic. Consumers are generally concerned about whether meat is really more expensive than plant-based proteins and how to save money on food without compromising nutrition.

Research in recent years has shown that overall, plant-based proteins are generally cheaper than meat, at least over the past 12 months. However, when looking at prices in Canada, the picture is not so clear.

Meat prices, particularly chicken, pork and beef, have fluctuated significantly since March 2020, with ground beef prices increasing by a net 16% since March 2020. By comparison, pork and chicken saw increases of between 4% and 7%, still below the overall average for food spending over the same period.

And plant-based protein products, including lentils, dry beans, tofu and hummus, have seen price increases of 25%, 23%, 16% and 10% respectively since March 2020. Although the price increases are larger, they are relatively gradual and do not have the dramatic fluctuations seen with meat.

The production of plant proteins is less affected by biosecurity and high food safety risks, so there are fewer losses and relatively less price fluctuations. On the contrary, meat prices fluctuate greatly and are affected by multiple variables such as energy and transportation costs.

While there’s a general feeling that meat prices are rising more, that’s not entirely true, according to Statistics Canada data. However, affordability of meat is often low and consumer perceptions are often left with lasting effects, leading them to believe the product is still too expensive, creating what is known as an anti-meat mentality.

Consumers are more sensitive to rising meat prices, but price is only one factor considered when deciding whether to reduce meat consumption. Environmental issues, animal welfare and health are also important factors in consumer decision-making. So for those determined to consume less meat by 2024, saving money may not be the main motivation, but more about focusing on other impacts.