Panic buying gets to the meat of what really matters to consumers

James Nason, 19/03/2020

SOMETIMES it takes a crisis to highlight what really matters to consumers.

As the coronavirus pandemic has unleashed further waves of panic buying this week, meat has been at front and centre of consumer demand, as many news reports have documented:

‘Supermarket shelves stripped bare of plant-based burgers’ is one headline yet to appear, despite often-reported media claims in recent years that consumers are abandoning real meat in favour of plant-based alternatives.

Times of crisis tend to reveal people’s true colours, and if the coronvirus pandemic this week is any guide, real meat remains a number one consumer product of choice.

While meat has been walking off the shelves, vegan and vegetarian alternatives have not proben quite so popular, as many social media posts both here and overseas have pointed out.

US cattle industry leader Colin Woodall, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, shared this post showing empty US meat shelves:

The beef free sausages are fooling anybody

Why are people not hoarding fake meat?

Makes failed goods easier to spot

Even in a crisis people don’t want to eat it


At Gunnedah in New South Wales yesterday, Stephen Carpenter dropped into his local Woolworths to ‘panic buy a loaf of bread’ and noticed the meat shelves were empty, with the notable exception of the plant-based section:

One meat industry figure made the comment to Beef Central this morning that despite the political posturing that has surrounded fake meat and cattle emissions, “it appears that once the thought of hunger sets in we go back to what’s real and all the nonsense subsides for a while.”

Another sent through the below picture from their local Woolworths, adding the caption: “It would seem even during the current apocalypse you can’t even give away plant based proteins”:

Yesterday Australian Meat Industry Council CEO Patrick Hutchinson also homed in on the reality check the coronavirus pandemic has created around consumer views of real meat versus fake meat.

“Nothing is going to tell you that more than seeing kilometre-long lines of people waiting in butcher shops and going up to people delivering meat trying to buy it off the back of a truck, and the scenario of Coles and Woolies rationing beef mince,” he said.

“That is showing you, and it should be a big thing for all of the concerned cockies out there who are worried about alternative proteins, that shows you a community in action.

“If that is not a barometer of what people think of our product then I don’t know what is.

“The only thing we are hearing about alternative meats is that when people go in (to supermarkets) they’re the only thing still sitting there.”


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  1. Paul D. Butler, 20/03/2020

    Good article pointing out the great position the beef industry is in………….when push comes to shove………consumers instinctively value the most nutritional products……….with Beef being at the top as it well should be.

  2. Brendon Cant, 19/03/2020

    While I am a committed (real) meat eater and promoter and think plant-based-meats are just fakes and nutritionally challenged compared to the real thing, I also think it’s possible that those shoppers needlessly panic buying and hoarding fresh (real) meat are not necessarily representative of the same demographic as those who would buy fake plant-based meat products. The shelf ‘evidence’ might simply reflect different buying behaviours. BC.

    • David Connellan, 20/03/2020

      I know that vegans have an elevated opinion of themselves, but to suggest, en masse, that plant-based meat buyers are more ‘civilised’ than the rest of us is just ludicrous

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