There’s more on offer than ever before for people making a move towards plant-based eating, but growing options don’t always come without their own complications.
An issue was raised on Saturday by a vegan shopper in Melbourne, who was left concerned after noting the presence of animal meat in a Woolworths fridge adorned with “plant-based” signage.
“There’s real chicken on the bottom shelf of the plant-based meat section of your South Melbourne store,” she wrote to the retailer’s Facebook page.
“This is very confusing and will most likely lead to lots of unhappy plant-based customers who unknowingly purchase meat.”
The woman explained that she picked up a package of chicken wings after mistakenly assuming they were vegan, but swiftly put them back after realising they were the real deal.
“If the products are in the same section as other vegan chicken products, vegan mince, vegan sausages, etc, it’s reasonable to assume they’re also vegan. It’s just common sense to not place meat in this section.”
The plant-based section of Woolworths’ fridge offers a glimpse into what vegans and vegetarians now have access to thanks to a growing trend towards more meat alternatives across several supermarkets and fast food restaurants.
The growth of vegan and vegetarian products
Supermarkets including Woolworths, Coles and Aldi have gradually increased the presence of plant-based options in stores as Australia continues its trend as the third fastest-growing vegan market in the world.
Research conducted by Euromonitor predicted that sales of packaged vegan food in Australia would reach $215 million by 2020, a boost from $136 million.
This is evident in the volume of packaged plant meat options including from brands like Vegie Delights, Quorn, Funky Fields, Beyond Meat and Gardein that are now available on supermarket shelves.
While these options may be slightly more expensive when compared with packaged animal products, they generally have a lower environmental impact and are healthier due to being high in protein and fibre, while being relatively low in saturated fat.
Fast food restaurants in Australia including Domino’s, Pizza Hut, Crust, Hungry Jacks, McDonald’s, Subway, Grill’d, San Churro, and Mexican establishments including Mad Mex, Zambreros and Guzman Y Gomez, all now provide meals specifically for vegans.
Vegans and vegetarians rejoiced with each addition of a new vegan item to a fast food restaurant’s menu, but these offerings have not always been perfectly executed.
Complaints about animal meat and dairy cheese been mistakenly added to vegan orders can be a prominent theme among plant-based customers.
The problem has become so widespread that a Facebook group was created called Domino's Vegan Pizza Horror Stories Australia, with complaints of real cheese being sent out on vegan pizzas.
Coles shoppers who ordered online have also previously been left disappointed by staff who mistakenly sent them animal meat in substitution for their order of plant-based meat.
A Perth customer received meat sausages instead of her order of Alternative Meat Co vegan sausages, while a Sydney shopper was also sent pork and beef sausages instead of the intended vegan ones.
Woolies customer abused over vegan complaint
Despite there being about 400,000 to 500,000 vegans nationwide, those who choose a plant-based diet are still not quite free from the “hippie” stigma historically attached to the lifestyle.
In the woman’s post about animal meat in the Woolworths plant-based fridge, some common insults were thrown her way by people who seemingly did not share her concern.
“Why do you need a vegan section for? Don't you just need to go out side and cut some grass?,” one person commented in a reply to the post. “And if you're against eating meat why do you want your grass to taste like meat?”.
“I didn't think being vegan affected your ability to read,” another said.
In an update to the post on Saturday, the woman chided the “bullies” who had lashed out at her on the supermarket’s Facebook page.
“Please make sure to be an adult and leave your hateful comments and un-funny jokes to yourself,” she said.
Veganism on the rise in Australia
Data revealed in 2018 showed 2.5 million Australians, or 12.1 per cent of the population, were eating all or almost all vegetarian, up from 2.1 million people in 2016.
While some may think those on a vegan or vegetarian diet cannot attain necessary nutrients from plants alone, doctors across the globe have revealed evidence that suggests otherwise.
One example was in research published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the world's largest association of food and nutrition professionals, which states a well-planned plant-based diet to be healthy and adequate for all stages of life.
The academy also concluded plant-based diets were “more environmentally sustainable than diets rich in animal products because they use fewer natural resources and are associated with much less environmental damage”.
Additionally: “Vegetarians and vegans are at reduced risk of certain health conditions, including coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancer, and obesity”.
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