This is a question I get asked all the time.
The short answer? No. But the long answer will require some explanation.
Isn’t meat eating expensive? Sure if you eat out all the time, buy fancy cuts and eat spoonfuls of caviar. Any lifestyle can be expensive.
In this sense, if you’re a vegan who loves to buy replacement meats and organic vegan cheese, chocolates and avocado toast than sure, it can get pricey. But the average vegan doesn’t brunch at Matcha Mylkbar everyday or buy $18 acai bowls every week. So let’s compare a basic vegan diet with a basic omnivorous diet. This way it will give us a good indication of a baseline comparison for our typical meals.
Firstly ask yourself the classic question: where do you get your protein from? Protein is the basis of a dish for most people, omni, veg or vegan. This is also where our meals will differ the most. If you’re an omni, you’ll answer with some sort of meat or fish. If you’re veg/vegan you’ll answer with beans, legumes, nuts, tofu, tempeh…etc Now I had no idea how much meat the typical person eats with meals or what kind, so I did my research by asking lots of my omni friends (all aged 19-30). Along with this, I also dug around menus of restaurants/chain stores in the Melbourne CBD of varying cuisines to compare veggie vs meat options.
It seems that the average person eats mostly chicken and beef thrown in on the off days. According to the responses, the amount of chicken eaten with a meal would be ~150g on average depending on the serve, and ~150-200g of beef. There is also the occasional bacon for breakfast, as well as ham for lunch. Each of which is estimated to be ~3 strips of bacon and ~2 slices of ham.
An average serve of tofu would be ~125g and of beans or lentils probably ~150g. Assuming that you’re not like me and chow down a whole 400g can as a snack (a frequent occurrence). But we are talking about the average vegan who is probably more sane than I. We also tend to mix proteins (eg. beans and tofu or lentils and chickpeas) but this would mean the servings of each are approximately halved (~50-70g each), which works out around the same weight of total protein.
So how does the price really compare?
So it turns out that we seem to eat around the same serving sizes of our proteins (~100-150g). So there doesn’t appear to be a difference in portion size. But while meat comes in at around $4 per dinner/meal, tofu comes in at under $1, and beans around $1. So still you save at least $3 per dinner/meal. This then accumulates as you throw in bacon or ham into the mix, for breakfast or lunch for example, adding on ~$1.50 per serve.
Yes us vegans do pay that 30-50c extra for soy or almond milk in our coffee. Even so, the cost of consuming meat with meals definitely adds up compared to the veg alternatives.
What about eating out?
So for this part of my research I averaged the main meal prices between meat, seafood and vegetable dishes at low/mid range restaurants/chain stores in Melbourne (~$10-20 mains). I also selected them from a range of cuisines & the ones underlined are the cheapest options.
Store #1 – Grill’d
Meat burgers averaged at $12.50
Vegetable burgers averaged at $11.50
(No seafood burgers)
Store #2 – Mrs. Parma’s
Meat schnitzel averaged at $27.50
Veg (eggplant) schnitzel averaged at $24.00
Store #3 – Ajisen Ramen Melbourne Central
Meat mains – $12.40
Seafood mains averaged at $13.80
Veg mains averaged at $12.90
Store #4 Ramen Ya Emporium
Meat mains – $13.35
Seafood mains – $13.90
Veg mains – $11.90
Store #5 Roll’d Vietnamese
Rice paper rolls:
Meat – $3.90
Seafood – $3.90
Veg (tofu) – $3.50
Meat – $10.50
Seafood – $10.60
Veg – $10.25
Store #6 Guzman y Gomez
Meat burritos – $11.75
Veg burritos – $11.50
Seafood/fish burritos – $11.50
Store #7 Zambrero
Meat burrito – $11.90
Veg burrito – $11.90
Store #8 Mad Mex
Meat burrito – $11.50
Veg burrito – $11.50
Store #9 Kamil’s Kebabs Melbourne Central
Meat kebabs – $6.25
Veg (felafel) kebabs – $5.00
Store #10 Sushi Sushi
Meat sushi handrolls – $3.00
Seafood sushi handrolls – $3.00
Veg sushi handrolls – $2.70
As you can see, veg options are generally the same or cheaper, with the occasional exception. For total averages between the stores we have larger meat dishes at around $11.00 per meal and larger veg dishes around the $10.20 mark.
…So there you have it!
Still don’t believe me? Take a walk around the supermarket and find the cheapest things you can. They will without a doubt be the fresh produce, the beans, the rice, the bread and the pastas. The most healthy, basic and cheapest food always wins out.
All prices were gathered from the menus of the stores listed. As stated, averages were then taken of the main meal prices. This excludes drinks, sides, entrees, desserts, and extras.