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As the clock ticks down to the most-watched television event of the year, new data suggests Super Bowl LVI will be all about plants—vegan chicken wings, that is. And a whole lot of them.
More than 100 million Americans will tune in to Super Bowl LVI on February 13th as the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals battle it out for the title. But for millions of Americans, the animals will stay on the field and off the plates as new data from the nonprofit Compassion in World Farming estimates more than 160 million plant-based chicken wings will be consumed on Super Bowl Sunday.
160 Million Chicken Wings
It’s a large number that builds off of the momentum of the Veganuary campaign, which just ended on Monday. More than half a million people officially registered for the month-long event that sees people pledge to eat vegan for all of January. But countless more adopt the measure without officially registering, the campaign says.
The findings come by the way of a recent survey that concluded roughly six percent of the U.S. population now identifies as vegan or vegetarian. That number is buoyed by the 33 percent of Americans who consider themselves flexitarians or reducetarians, says Compassion in World Farming.
The estimates suggest about 10 percent of all chicken wings will be vegan this year; nearly 1.5 billion conventional chicken wings were eaten during last year’s event.
“Every year we’re told how many animal-based chicken wings will be eaten during the Superbowl,” Ben Williamson, US Executive Director, Compassion in World Farming, said in a statement. “But one of the fastest-growing food trends is the increasing popularity of healthy and humane plant-based versions of classic American foods, which taste identical to the animal variety. So, we decided to estimate how many football fans will be eating compassionately next Sunday.”
According to Compassion in World Farming, the time is now to opt for vegan chicken. It says that the number of chickens raised for food—more than 9 billion in the U.S. and more than 66 billion worldwide—is more than the planet can support. Animal agriculture is a leading source of emissions and overconsumes natural resources. A 2021 report from the World Health Organization concluded that “considerable evidence supports shifting populations towards healthful plant-based diets that reduce or eliminate intake of animal products.”
Vegan Super Bowl Food
Last month, vegan meat brand Sweet Earth announced a partnership with Eddie Jackson, a former NFL-player-turned-celebrity-chef and Food Network star.
“Usually in January, people feel a sense of restriction, and we want to change that perception,” Jackson, a former cornerback for the Carolina Panthers and author of the Game-Day Eats cookbook, said in a statement. “This is all about savoring the plant-based upgrade, so it’s anything but a sacrifice.”
The California-based brand partnered with Jackson to help craft gameday snacks that satisfy the moment, while still moving toward healthier and more sustainable options.
“We took a closer look at moments in time where our plant-based consumers might feel left out,” Jennifer Barnes, Sweet Earth’s vice president and general manager, told Adweek. “We realized that game day entertaining was a huge cultural moment that many vegetarians, vegans and those looking to reduce their meat consumption often feel left [out of].”
Consumers will have no shortage of options when it comes to vegan chicken and wing options, though—whether that’s takeout from KFC, which recently launched meatless chicken nuggets, or any of the store-bought options. Supermarket brands include Impossible Foods, Daring Foods, Gardein, Alpha Foods, Jack and Annie’s, and Simulate’s Nuggs.
Cauliflower has also proven a popular alternative to conventional chicken wings with options available at Target, Sprouts, and Whole Foods, among other stores and among other options. A number of stores are merchandising vegan game day snacks together.
“Plant-based meat products are now more widely available than ever before, online and in your local supermarket,” continues Williamson. “There’s never been a better time to replace your meat made from animals, with meat made from plants—for your health and for the sake of the planet.”
Photo by Léo Roza on Unsplash