With meat prices skyrocketing, are we heading for a veggie Christmas?
Although this Christmas is set to be far more normal than last Christmas (all being well), what we eat may have to be tweaked if we don’t want Christmas to cost even more than usual. As we’ve emerged from lockdowns, Covid-related staff shortages, Brexit and climate change issues, food supplies have become a major challenge.
Reports of meat shortages around the globe have become big stories in the media, as consumers fear facing a turkey-free Christmas. Although this might seem unimaginable to many, apparently a large number of people are open to the idea of a meat-free festive season. With this in mind, it might be worth reviewing your Christmas menus this year to increase the meat-free and plant-based options you’re offering.
Why are meat prices rising?
Nothing right now is simple or straightforward, so, as you might imagine, there are many forces at play that are leading to higher costs and low stocks of meat in the UK. Firstly, imports are limited because of supply issues caused by both Covid and climate change. Beef supplies in 2020 were down to their lowest levels since the 1970s, while devastating bushfires have reduced the amount of lamb available to export from Australia.
Then there’s the CO2 shortages, which are also contributing to the meat supply fears. Meat suppliers are expecting a spike in CO2 prices, which is used in the production of several kinds of poultry, as well as pork (so bad news for your pigs in blankets!).
CO2 production plants, such as CF Industries, are being kept alive by government subsidies because wholesale gas prices suddenly made business not financially viable. It has now struck a deal that exempts the CO2 industry from competition law, which is expected to lead to soaring CO2 prices over the winter.
Then there’s the shortage of workers in meat processing plants here in the UK. Brexit has led to staff from the EU returning home and producers are having difficulties filling their vacant roles.
This all means that restaurant and pub owners will be paying far more for their meat than, say, two years ago. And with consumer wages failing to keep up with inflation, what’s the best way forward?
More veg, less meat?
Although all this news might feel a little bleak, there’s a clear solution for hospitality business owners who want to avoid putting prices up on their menus this Christmas – offering more vegetarian and vegan options.
Research shows that consumers are generally very open to meat-free alternatives over the festive season. The Vegan Society has reported that 5 million British people are planning to have their first meat-free Christmas lunch this year – a remarkable number! Meanwhile, a quarter of Brits said they expect to cater for vegetarian or vegan guests over Christmas.
When it comes to eating out, consumers are now more used to seeing meat-free and plant-based items on menus. HappyCow, which puts together a meat-free restaurant guide, named London the most vegan-friendly city in the world.
Bloomberg Intelligence carried out a study and found that plant-based foods are set for “explosive growth” between now and 2030, with their market value soaring to $162bn.
Now’s the time to adapt your menu
As we move into the winter season and festive menus start to appear, many chefs and restaurant owners will be making some tough decisions about what to offer this year. If you want to up the meat-free factor on your menus, you can do so easily and quickly by using a digital menu tool like Leslie.
Our users are able to make changes to their menus immediately, with no need to splash out on printed menus. If you need to increase prices or even remove items that are no longer available – even in the middle of service – you can do so directly through Leslie.
The key to surviving the challenges we’re all facing is being able to adapt. The easier it is to pivot, or diversify your offering, the greater chance you have of remaining popular and profitable.
Some of the greatest changes have come out of necessity, but that’s just fine by us.