Brazil Is Famous for Its Meat. But Vegetarianism Is Soaring.
After years of whipping up large vegan meals for an ashram in the mountains outside Rio de Janeiro, Luiza de Marilac Tavares found herself out of a job when the pandemic forced the center to shut down.
She started cooking from home, taking orders from people she knew. With a little Instagram marketing, she had inadvertently tapped into Brazil’s booming demand for plant-based food.
The country, the world's largest beef exporter, has seen a dramatic shift toward plant-based diets. The number of self-declared vegetarians in Brazil has nearly doubled over a six-year period, according to a poll by research firm Ibope; 30 million people, or 14% of Brazilians, reported being vegetarian or vegan in 2018.
Mainstream supermarkets now stock foods made from plant-based protein next to its meat, poultry and fish. And in the toniest neighborhoods of major capitals, eateries that devote as much attention to atmosphere as they do to the menu serve up inventive, meatless dishes to a casually hip crowd.
This transformation has turned the nation of 212 million people—globally renowned for all-you-can-eat steakhouses and increasingly under siege for the carbon footprint of its cattle ranches—into a powerhouse for plant-based food innovation.
Brazilian plant-based food startups have seen soaring demand since animal-based protein analogs first became widely available in 2019 in supermarkets and restaurants.
The shift away from animal-based protein is mainly being driven by health concerns, experts said. Obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease have increased as people have adopted more sedentary lifestyles and junk food has become increasingly cheap and accessible.
Rising deforestation, much of which is driven by the meat industry, and an increasingly visible animal rights movement are secondary factors pushing Brazilians to reduce or phase out animal products.
Companies that have relied on Brazilians' love of meat have taken note of the shift in views and appetites. Outback Steakhouse, one of the most popular chain restaurants in Brazil, early last year launched a burger made with broccoli and cauliflower.
“We're going through a revolution,” said Bruno Fonseca, a co-founder of New Butchers, one of several new Brazilian companies that makes plant-based replicas of animal-based protein, including burger patties, chicken breast alternatives and imitation salmon.
文／Ernesto Londoño 譯／李京倫、核稿／樂慧生