Guess Who Ate More Than 200 Million Vegan Burgers Last Year? Meat Eaters.

New data from market research firm NPD Group found that 95 percent of people who ordered vegan burgers at restaurants this past year were not vegans as most might expect, but actually meat eaters. While orders for vegan patties spiked 10 percent over last year, orders for beef burgers have stagnated.

Though the percentage of committed vegans in the United States remains somewhere in the single digits, vegan meat and dairy alternatives are experiencing mainstream popularity like never before.

Consider that in just the last year, Nielsen reported the sales of vegan meats were up 30 percent, and the sales of vegan cheeses soared an incredible 45 percent. Additionally, while the dairy industry’s sales plummeted by over a billion dollars, resulting in thousands of dairy farms closing for good, the dairy alternatives sector has skyrocketed.

I’d love to say that all this is because more people are going vegan than ever before – and maybe they are (though I haven’t seen research to confirm that) – but what’s for sure is that more people are willing to try and incorporate vegan alternatives to meat and dairy into their diets.

Back in May, I wrote a piece discussing some of my brother’s favorite vegan products. He is a meat eater who captains boats for deep-sea fishing expeditions. I was shocked last summer when I was at his house and saw tons of vegan meats and dairy alternatives in his fridge. I even spied Gardein’s fishless filets in this fisherman’s freezer!

When I asked him what was up with all the vegan food, he told me that he genuinely loves the way these products taste. He also said he felt vegan alternatives were cleaner and healthier than animal products. He specifically mentioned many of the products were lower in fat, none had cholesterol, and he didn’t have to worry about bringing pathogens into his house like salmonella and E. coli that are regularly found in meat. He also said he felt his vegan alternatives were super affordable and less of a hassle to cook.

My brother may be far from a vegan, but he is a prime example of the mainstream population changing the way they eat.

How much will this do to spare animals who suffer horrific cruelty on factory farms? That question remains to be answered. Even so, there have been over 200 million vegan burgers served at fast food restaurants so far this year. Let me say that again: 200 MILLION. We can only extrapolate that had those burgers been made of dead animals, more would have suffered. It’s supply and demand after all.

Another thing to consider is the dent this could make in greenhouse gas emissions. With animal agriculture being one of the leading causes of climate change, and with this July on track to be the hottest month in history, there’s never been a better time for all of us, vegan or not, to give meat the cold shoulder.

Main image source: Instagram/beyondmeat