Why is Vegan Food So Expensive?

It’s a topic of hot debate, as many vegans find themselves short-changed at the end of their weekly food shop. With meat alternatives and the likes of vegan cheese costing more than their meat and dairy counterparts, it has many asking why vegan food is so expensive?

Animal products are cheap because of mass farming practices where low production costs mean low prices for consumers. Combine this with the cost of research and development of vegan food, and a lot of plant-based alternatives operate in a new market.

The truth is, not all vegan food is expensive. Still, we’re going to take a close look at why a lot of vegan food costs more in the following article. 

Why Vegan Specialty Food is More Expensive

A lot of vegan food costs more because it operates in a smaller market than the meat industry. The mass farming of animals keeps meat prices low with production costs reduced in an established industry. Farmed animals provide a regular supply of milk and eggs for example without high overheads.

Vegan food is also more expensive because it is not subsidized by the government. A lot of funding goes into the farming industry which helps to keep the price of meat and dairy low. Soy, tofu, and other ingredients do not get the same treatment so the reduced cost of production is not passed on to the consumer. 

Supply and Demand

A lot of meat alternatives are made by smaller vegan food companies that cannot compete with large factory farming practices, especially when a lot of farming is subsidized and funded by taxpayers’ money. 

The plant-based market is growing but is still a relatively small market in comparison to the meat and dairy industry. The demand for meat substitutes is not as high. Retailers only stock a small amount of vegan food in comparison to the shelf space of meat and dairy products. The lack of infrastructure and pricier manufacturing practices means vegan specialty food is more expensive.

Ingredient Cost

The cost of producing a meat sausage or a block of cheddar is no secret – the methods are there, as are the prices involved in production. 

Vegan ingredients also cost more due to the price of research and development. They will also be higher when companies use organic fruit and vegetables. Regular grown fruit and vegetables are coated in chemical pesticides to keep the likes of insects, mice, and bacteria away. These pesticides have been known to cause health issues for humans so many vegans, in particular, prefer organic produce.

The truth is, that organic farming costs more. They do not use pesticides so their produce is more exposed to attacks from insects, mice, diseases, etc. The market is also much smaller, so there is a smaller market share for organic produce which means higher prices. 

Small And Niche Market

The vegan market is tiny in comparison to the meat and dairy industry. This increases the cost of going vegan as producers cannot. It also means there is less competition so companies can charge a premium knowing vegans are going to buy their products no matter what.

The Cost Of Research And Development

The pricey cost of research and development is higher than meat alternatives. Many are still in the research and development stage where prices could be lower, but companies are not sure how to make it so yet. The challenge of making a plant-based burger is complicated, especially when trying to replicate mouthfeel, texture, as well as taste, and nutrition. 

A lot of money goes into researching the products so they are constantly changing and improving. This means prices remain higher. 

Why is vegan cheese so expensive?

Vegan cheese is so expensive for several reasons including a lack of competition where prices can be kept high, and less demand. The lower demand means producers cannot make their plant-based cheese at a certain price point.

Cheese is often the trickiest part of switching to a vegan diet so finding a quality substitute is difficult. The texture and taste are difficult to replicate and the process of getting vegan cheese as close to the real thing is expensive. Vegan cheese used to be made with soy flour and yeast extract but was low in quality.

In the modern-day, vegan food companies make cheese from nuts, soy milk, gums, and fats to replicate the mouthfeel of dairy cheese. The manufacturing process of making plant-based cheese is expensive and more complicated than dairy farming. 

How can I eat vegan for cheap?

Eating vegan for cheap comes with its challenges. This is especially since there is a lack of certain vitamins and minerals in a vegan diet that needs to be taken via supplements or fortified foods. 

Going vegan on a budget requires planning to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients for a balanced diet. First of all, stock up on the essentials. Most people already have a cupboard full of vegan-friendly essentials such as tinned brands and tomatoes, rice, dried herbs, and spices. Fruit, veg, potatoes, and wholemeal bread are also kitchen staples for many. Look out for egg-free pasta, noodles, and soya mince.

Try to find some of the frozen essentials such as veggie burgers, mince, and even sausages can be inexpensive. If on a budget, look for supermarket own-brand proteins but check the label to ensure they are vegan-friendly and not just vegetarian (some contain egg and dairy).

Try to find dried packet mixes to make meatballs or similar as these can also be affordable. Not all vegan food is expensive so look for budget options and value ranges where possible. Some products will use margarine instead of vegan butter bringing the price down. 

Of course, there is also the chance that there are deals on so take advantage when available, and reduced produce that can be frozen if necessary. Try to make more than you need for one meal and stretch it out to two portions. These can be frozen and reheated, reducing the cost of eating vegan. 

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