Animal Protein Still Preferred Over Plant

by Matt Weik

If you’ve been paying attention to my articles over the past year, you’d know that I’ve been covering the evolution and shift of consumers who once used animal protein to now an alternative source such as plant protein. Nielsen (a market research firm) went to the streets to figure out how much of an impact these animal protein alternatives are making on American’s diets. And at the end of the day, their findings show the animal kingdom still reigns supreme.

King of the Jungle

When it comes to protein, majority of Americans get their daily source from meat. In fact, the statistic is 78% meat followed by normal consumption of eggs as a protein source at 61%. Third on the list is dairy which is consumed by 58% of Americans regularly. And 29% of Americans consume fish and seafood. When you compare these numbers to the plant-based Americans being only 19%, you can see there’s still a huge gap between the groups.

Interestingly enough, in the study, 15% of Americans mentioned they were planning on eating more plant-based protein sources while 22% mentioned they were going to decrease their meat consumption. 19% said they were planning on increasing their fish and seafood consumption. Will they follow through? I guess we will see next year when Nielsen releases an update. But, it’s interesting to see that Americans are becoming more interested in meatless protein options.

Nielsen mentioned, “Legumes as an ingredient, are found in over 160 categories across the store, and are posting growth—all indicating that they are increasingly getting to American plates. Categories like yogurt, ice cream and salty snacks in which legumes are listed as an ingredient are posting dollar growth in the last 52 weeks. Among those, we have categories like salty snacks with dollar growth of 6%, cookies and crackers 2%, cereal and granola 3% and yogurt 34%.”

Plant-based protein has been catching hold in the supplement market as well here of late. Pea protein is coming on strong as well as other plant-based alternatives. With the cost of whey always seeming to go up, consumers are interested in alternative sources that are less expensive in order to take in more protein.

Americans still aren’t of the mindset of adding more protein to their diet. About 7% of those surveyed mentioned high protein foods are important to them while 15% said they focus more on “healthy foods” like fruits and vegetables.

Extinction? Hardly.

Look, meat isn’t going anywhere. While more people are interested in finding new meatless sources of protein, animal protein is still on top of the food chain in terms of what Americans want. Many men have the “meat and potatoes” mentality when it comes to nutrition—I’m one of them.

In addition, more and more Americans are starting to purchase their own chickens to consume the eggs and even slaughter the chicken themselves for food. It’s not uncommon today to see some of your neighbors with chicken in their backyard (assuming they are allowed), personally, I think it’s great and if my township would allow it, I’d totally have some chicken with the amount of eggs I consume on a weekly basis.

There is a health shift when it comes to meat sources as a whole. More Americans are paying attention to the specifics of each source of meat they are buying. They are looking for things like antibiotic free, grass-fed, all natural, and no artificial preservatives. These options are selling better than the options without those claims even though they are more expensive per pound. Nielsen mentioned, “Whether plant or animal based, consumers are returning to basics. More natural ingredients and less processed food options are some of the attributes consumers are gravitating towards. Manufacturers and retailers need to embrace consumer preferences and not be afraid to innovate to meet demands.”

Farmers also need to be aware of consumer demands with all of these shifts in preferences. They too need to evolve, otherwise they could lose a lot of money by not shifting with the trends. This goes with everything they produce from the cattle, to the pigs, to the chickens, vegetables, and fruits. As the saying goes, “evolve or die.” You can’t be set in your ways otherwise the competition will come in and stomp you out for good.

While I haven’t made the change from a meat to plant-based diet, I know many of people who have. Are you one of them? Let us know in the comments if you have been trending in the direction of lowering your meat consumption and introducing more of a plant-based diet into your lifestyle.


1.) Crawford, Elizabeth. “Animal-Based Protein Tops Consumer Choice, but Plant-Based Options Are Rising Fast, Nielsen Finds.”, 19 Sept. 2017.