Veganuary, a campaign encouraging people to try veganism for the month of January, is almost at its end. Many South Africans have joined the movement, something Dewald Olivier, chief executive of the South African Feedlot Association, says the red meat fraternity has noted.
“The red meat fraternity is also very well aware of the growing interest in plant-based proteins within South Africa. The farmers that produce meat and value chain contributors have not been oblivious to what is happening locally and internationally and have been researching ways to engage with consumers in an effort to stay ahead of the curve.”
Olivier says that the red meat industry has put in place differentiated efforts to sell its products. They are positive about these efforts. However, in general the industry does not regard the veganism movement as in competition with them. “It is simply not the same as red meat and red meat will never compare itself to or compete with plant-based protein.”
While veganism continues to gain popularity in the country, Olivier thinks that it is unlikely that it would displace red meat products. He explains that meat consumption is embedded in the country’s dietary preferences and that people who consume meat do so for a variety of reasons.
“The assumption would then be … there are more plant-based consumers than meat consumers. Now I know [to] never say never. However, if that was to happen, it would have to neutralise cultural and social history built up over many centuries within South Africa and Africa, and [that’s not going to happen] in the near future, I think.”
One of the biggest benefits of veganism is commonly said to be that it is better for animals and for the environment than eating meat. Olivier disagrees, and says that it is easy to arrange statistics and scientific research so that they are in line with one’s argument.
“If one argues that animals do not have to be harvested, yes it might be a win for that particular animal. If one argues that people will fall ill due to a lack of nourishment, it is not a win. The approach should be that there are more than enough opportunities for everyone to sell their protein or product.”
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