Walking up and down the plant-based aisles of your local supermarket you could be forgiven for thinking you need to be a millionaire to afford this stuff on a regular basis! Sometimes it does feel a little bit like you’ve been robbed in broad daylight after having put away that vegan ice cream. But why is vegan food so expensive? … and does it really need to be?
Why Is Vegan Food So Expensive?A lot of processed vegan food is so expensive because of the economics of supply and demand. With fewer people demanding this kind of vegan food it’s less easy to benefit from the economics of scale. Then there is the blatant profiteering which seems to be engulfing all corners of the world these days! … but is this the whole story?
Watch: Earthling Ed on why vegan food is NOT expensive …
( he talks quickly so concentrate! )
Is It More Expensive To Be a Vegan?
Well, it depends. As Earthling Ed explains in the video above, if you’re mostly preparing your own meals from scratch using the raw ingredients then there’s really no reason why your plant-based diet needs to be more expensive than the traditional meaty affair.
In fact, meat and dairy are much more expensive than vegetables so, in theory, you should be able to cook vegan and spend quite a bit less of your hard-earned cash in the process.
However, when it comes to packaged, pre-prepared foods, the ‘vegan option’ is invariably more expensive. Same goes for many of the replacement type products like plant-based cheese.
As a quick example, in one of our nation’s favourite supermarkets at the time of writing, a 350g block of mature cheddar cheese from a well-known brand is £7.40 per kilo. The equivalent plant based option from Violife will set you back £9.95 per kilo. That’s a 34% increase!
( incidentally, while updating this post I thought I’d quickly check the current pricing on the above products. I was shocked! We’re now looking at £10.35 per kilo on the mature cheddar and the Violife is up to £13.75 per kilo … we’re certainly in the throes of rampant inflation! )
You’ll see this same scenario played out across many plant based options. When a direct comparison is made, the vegan products will be significantly more expensive.
Some of this will be down to economies of scale. Even though more and more people are choosing to go vegan, we’re still a tiny fraction of the population. So, much as I despise the rabid capitalism we see all around us, the laws of supply and demand kick in here.
There is also a strong argument for the proposition that the price you pay at the checkout for many foodstuffs does not reflect the true cost of that food. It’s difficult to quantify, but if you take into account the environmental cost alone, you’ll quickly find meat and dairy based products move more into line with their plant based counterparts on price.
Then for those vegans who’s reasons are ethical, taking into account the cost of the animal suffering makes the plant based option infinitely less costly! For us, the price of even one animal’s life is too high … but I’m going a bit off-point now!
I think what I’m trying to get at is, as with many of these questions, there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer.
Ever Increasing Rates of Profit – Unsustainable Capitalism!
Here’s the problem … we live in a world where the success of a business model invariably relies on the rate of profit increasing over time. If a company cannot show their profit margins increasing year-on-year, the stock market responds and the value of that company diminishes.
Food is big business and profit is king!
It’s very difficult to extract more profit from a carrot. Although the food industry has had a very good go at it in some ingenious ways! You could grow organic using vegan manure, harming no animals whatsoever, watering using pure spring water and still only realise a 15% markup on your premium carrot brand, if you’re lucky.
The only effective way to do it is through food processing. This is how they increase profit margins. This is how they keep the shareholders happy.
Most plant-based ‘replacement’ type products are highly processed. They’re easily classified as ‘ultra processed food’ or UPF; a phrase you’re going to hear a lot more of over the coming years.
It stands to reason. In order to create a plant-based burger, for example, you have to assemble the product from its component parts … the definition of UPF no less!
The rise of veganism is truly a godsend for the food giants and marketing agencies. There are endless opportunities to construct vegan versions of popular foods. Many of those new to veganism crave the old diet and demand for alternatives has mushroomed!
It’s easy to hide lots of salt and sugar in UPF and while, inherently, the plant-based option is usually going to be better for you overall, we’re starting from a very low base level. You’ll find a large majority of these products are not particularly healthy … or cheap!
Getting Back to Basics – Economical Living
It’s fairly clear the solution is to focus more on fresh fruit and veg. There are seemingly endless studies out there concluding a plant based diet is hugely beneficial for human health.
This one from August 2022 , for example, concludes that a plant based diet promotes a healthy gut microbiome; interesting how they mention supplementation too. If you’re hungry for more (see what I did there!) just have a search on Google Scholar … it’s a whole world of data out there!
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting you go hardcore, raw vegan but if you can ensure you eat some vegetables every day and take supplements you need there’s no reason your vegan diet needs to be expensive.
I’m as weak as the next man when it comes to a vegan rich chocolate cheesecake straight from the fridge but we do try to limit the processed food in our diet, as a family. We rarely buy ready meals and we cook from scratch more often than not.
… and I believe this is the way to go. I think an ever-increasing number of us in the ‘developed’ world have lost touch with some very basic survival skills as the rise of the machines has inexorably progressed.
We appear to be evolving into a species which doesn’t need to know how to do things anymore because we can just ask Alexa, or Hey Google. We need to reconnect with those cooking skills and try to make time to prepare fresh food for the family.
Call me an old fart … !
Cook Fresh and Spend Less … If You Have Time!
It’s a shame many of us have no time to focus more on looking after ourselves like this. Rushing around like headless chickens chasing something we’re told shall bring us success and life satisfaction, only to find 40 years later we’re wondering what happened!
Where did it all go? No-one wishes they’d spent more time in the office!
The vast majority of people spend their most vibrant, younger years focused on their career, devoted to making someone else rich. Countless hours commuting outside of the actual work day. Whole economies dependent, it seems, on you spending your cash on coffee and sandwiches!
It’s that time we need to get back. Your time is the most valuable commodity. If you can get some of your time back to focus on yourself and your health, your body and mind will thank you for it. Investing time in yourself is one of the best investments you can make.
If there’s one thing the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us, it is that we don’t need to commute to an office to work. There are wider social issues but the act of physically doing your work can be done from anywhere, if your role is office based.
That equates to a whole lot of time you can reclaim and put towards more beneficial use! Time to shop for fresh produce and time to cook it.
You’ll be healthier in body and bank account!
A Vegan Diet Need Not Be Expensive
I hope I’ve managed to illustrate how it is possible to cook relatively cheaply as a vegan. By all means treat yourself with those little luxuries. Sometimes we all just have to throw some oven chips and a quorn burger in the oven but plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables is the answer.
It doesn’t take long to throw a nice salad together to go with your junky burger and chips. With some practice you can whip up a basic chick pea and potato curry in next to no time. Gadgets like the Instant Pot Multicooker will save you time.
There are so many vegan recipes on the internet now, there really is no excuse when it comes to cooking from fresh. You never know, you might even enjoy it … discover the chef in you 🙂
If you’ve enjoyed this article and found it useful, please share with your friends. Knowledge is power! Any questions, go ahead and pop them in the comments area below. I’ll do my best to respond to you in a timely manner.
Have a great day and thanks for reading!
This article was originally published on July 22nd, 2021 at 05:29 and updated with fresh content, references and links on September 11th, 2022 at 21:19.
Sources: – Bell, Bryant T., “The Health Effects of a Plant-based Diet on the Human Gut Microbiome” (2022). Student Papers & Posters. Paper 81. https://jdc.jefferson.edu/student_papers/81