We are becomeeing increasingly aware that eating meat is having a terrible effect on our planet. Increasing emissions and using a disproportionately high amount of water let alone the effects on our general health. Persuading the average western consumer to change their eating habits is going to be very difficult.
Part of the issue with switching to a vegetarian diet is that you tend to descibe yourself as being a vegetarian. You become a member of a tribe rather than just a simple choice of what you eat. By describing someone as a vegetarian it immediately conjures up a stereotype. A crusty, pale , scrawney hippie type making their own meusli. Of course this is a terribly outdated view and many people now choose to eat less meat without describe themselves as vegetarian. Perhaps the monika “Vegetarian” is what is holding up the change?
The graphic style of many vegetarian food products echo’s this stereotype. Rustic typefaces on raw cardboard. The feeling of being raw and lacking in finesse tries to convey a feeling of authenticity and being closer to nature. This earthy, unrefined quality persuades us that these producs were made not manufactured. They visually distance themselves from large scale industial food manufacture.
Currently, many vegetarian food manufacturers offer a vegetarian version of their meaty competitors. They try to create a good enough facsimile of the real deal often with disappointing results as the expectation is that it will be just the same. It really can’t be the same but judged on it’s own merits it tastes just fine. Part of the issue is that the language we use to describe these foods is inextricably linked with its meaty origins. Sausages, Burgers, Chilli all set up expectations that simply can’t be matched by the vegetarian options. Look how much effort has gone into the Impossible Burger and it still doesn’t quite stack up against the real deal. The very first “cultivated meat” burger took years to produce and cost a quarter of a million dollars.
This desperate attempt to mimic meat or to provide substitutes for meat are not luring enough meat eater to the benefits of their offerings. Whay would someone switch to a slightly inferior version of something that they already buy and enjoy? “Cultivated meat” is still a long way off so for the sake of our health and the planets health we have to make turning to a low meat diet the norm in our society.
The binary choice of either being vegetarian or not excludes most consumers. Why do I have to choose a side? There should be a way of adopting a low meat lifestyle without feeling guilty. Surly we all want to feel that we do what we can for our health, animal welfare and the planet.
Packaging can play a big part in persuading people to opt for a low meat diet. Firstly we need a fresh wave of creativity when it comes to creating vegetarian foods and a new language to describe these dishes. Do all tubular shaped objects neeed to be described as ‘sausages’? All flat disks described as ‘burgers’?
Secondly the graphic language can be as sophisticated as any other food stuff. It doesn’t all have to be raw and unrefined. If food packaging is there to make us eat with our eyes we can employ to same level of superb food styling as meat based dishes. We don’t need to be convinced that these dishes have a primitive feel to them. That by not containing meat they are somehow closer to nature and as such so much more worthy.
I realise that some vegetarians are driven tribal feeling. That is not going to go away and I’m glad it isn’t but there must be more room for an alternative view of a low meat lifestyle. One that recognises that most people can’t opt out all together and their lifestyles are a compromise. You can eat meat occasionally and still feel good about yourself.