Ever wondered why that delicious Meat Free Monday dinner you’ve bought yourself is so much more expensive than the meaty equivalent? Us too. Effectively a tax on ambitions to eat greener, it adds pounds to the monthly shop and risks making prospective veggies or vegans think again about changing their diets.
Thank goodness, then, that one supermarket is leading the charge to change the industry.
The Co-op has become the first British chain to bring down the cost of its plant-based food so that meat free eaters and meat reducers don’t have to pay through the nose for saving the planet. As part of its drive to reduce its emissions to net zero by 2040, the company will plough more than £1.7 million into price-matching its Gro meat free and vegan range to its meat equivalents.
The 29 products in the Gro range include vegan sausages (£1.45, down from £3), meat-free burgers (£1.35, down from £3), meat-free mince (£1.75, down from £3) and vegan meatballs (£2.30, down from £3).
The high cost of meat alternatives in our supermarkets are likely to be putting many people off making the switch away from animal products and towards plant-based food. In some instances, the healthier and more planet-friendly option is sometimes twice or three times as expensive. A pack of Asda bacon (10 rashers, 300g) costs £1.49 on its website, for example, while a pack of its own-brand plant-based bacon (10 rashers, 180g) costs £2.50.
“It’s an industry-wide standard that plant-based alternatives are usually priced higher than their meat and dairy counterparts,” said Jo Whitfield, the chief executive of Co-op Food. “We believe it shouldn’t cost you more money to eat plant-based food and that this disparity is unfair to those following vegetarian, vegan and flexitarian diets.”
Less than a year after a report that revealed the Co-op’s veggie and vegan food to be among the priciest of the major food retailers, Whitfield issued a challenge to the other big supermarkets: “This move is a step in the right direction and we encourage other retailers and brands to consider making the change too.”
Other key planks of its 10-point climate change plan include offsetting the carbon cost of producing own-brand food and drink by 2025; switching its 200 delivery vans to electric; and ploughing the money from its carrier bag levy into restoring UK wildlife habitats. It plans to report every year on how well it is doing in meeting its goals, with Whitfield’s pay directly linked to its success.