There were a lot of efforts made this week to talk to consumers about agriculture. However, consumers are talking back, and what they are saying has some real economic impact for farmers. While fast food hamburger outlets are doing a booming business, other segments of the restaurant and food service sectors are seeing a much different trend.
Michael Whiteman, a consultant to high end restaurants, says wealthy, urban consumers are moving away from meat, “A large percentage of the restaurant population are shifting away from meat and moving toward vegetables. Even steakhouses are moving meat down the menu and vegetables to the top. Not only are vegetables moving to the center of the plate, meat is moving off the plate in some cases.” Speaking at a Bayer Agvocacy conference recently, Whiteman said many consumers have a real trust issue when it comes to animal protein.
A similar trend is taking place in the food service sector. Whiteman said, in one case, it is corporate policy to service less meat to employees, “Within Google, there is a division called Google Food. They are in charge of setting the standards for all the food served to Google employees world-side. They are very specifically manipulating how food is placed, merchandised, and described at all their cafeterias to move people toward vegetables and away from meat.”
Connie Dieckman, director of nutrition at Washington University, says animal protein is out on college campuses, “Our chefs have moved to how do we make that animal protein piece a smaller part of the plate.” She added, when meat is consumed, it is plant based-protein.
Both agree there is a serious trust issue among younger consumers about the food agriculture produces. They said it is not about being vegan or eating organic, it is about “clean” food and “locally sourced” even though, in most cases, there is not clear idea of what those terms mean.