China’s appetite for meat fades as vegan revolution takes hold

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Concerns over carbon emissions and food crises are fuelling a move away from meat consumption as a symbol of wealth

The window of a KFC in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou hosts the image of a familiar mound of golden nuggets. But this overflowing bucket sporting Colonel Sanders’ smiling face is slightly different. The bucket is green and the nuggets within it are completely meat free.

Over the last couple of years, after many years of rising meat consumption by China’s expanding middle classes for whom eating pork every day was a luxurious sign of new financial comforts, the green shoots of a vegan meat revolution have begun to sprout. Although China still consumes 28% of the world’s meat, including half of all pork, and boasts a meat market valued at $86bn (£62bn), plant-based meat substitutes are slowing carving out a place for themselves among a new generation of consumers increasingly alarmed by food crises such as coronavirus and African swine fever.

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