Trends We're Tracking: Shift from Meat, Russia-Ukraine, and Currency Markets
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Inflation accelerates shift away from meat
‘World Vegetarian Day’ is celebrated every year on October 1st to emphasize the health and environmental benefit of shifting away from meat and animal products.1 This time around, there is one more reason why consumers are increasingly adopting the vegetarian or vegan way of life and that is inflation.
As the cost of meat is skyrocketing, more consumers are adopting vegetarian diets. Within the August consumer price index (CPI) numbers for urban consumers, the cost of beef, fish, and poultry was up 8.8 percent on a year-on-year basis, with poultry alone up by around 16 percent.2 While some consumers have become ‘part time vegetarians’ who are waiting on the sidelines for meat prices to cool, others are making it a permanent dietary change. This doesn’t mean that people are shifting to plant-based meat alternatives like Beyond Meat. Sales in this category have been declining, owing to market saturation, higher prices, and confusion around perceived health benefits. Instead, these people are opting for less expensive, direct real plant proteins.3,4
It appears this shift away from meat is just not a phenomenon confined to the U.S., as the trend seems to be similar in countries like the U.K., where consumers are also suffering from high inflation rates. Surveys and studies conducted by the likes of ‘The Vegan Society’ and Oxford University also point towards the price benefits of being a vegetarian and shifting consumer preference to plant protein.5
Escalation of Russia-Ukraine conflict
This month saw escalated tensions in the Russia-Ukraine conflict as Russia held referendums to annex four regions of Ukraine. Following the referendum President Vladimir Putin publicly claimed these regions as Russian territories and promised to defend their lands with all the “forces and means” at their disposal. Furthermore, President Putin mentioned threat of nuclear force, stating that the United States set a precedent for the use of nuclear weapons.6,7 Further increasing tensions was the Nord Stream gas pipeline leaks, as many speculated that the leaks are a result of Russian sabotage. While the exact cause of the leaks is still unknown, European authorities are investigating. The damaged pipelines do not impact Europe’s energy supply, but have added to the uncertainty of the situation, which is further increasing the volatility seen in energy prices.8
Shelter costs driving inflation
Shelter costs make up about one third of the consumer price index (CPI) and comprise the largest portion of costs. The 0.7 percent increase in August represented the largest increase since 1991 and is driving overall inflation as rents are increasing. The several months prior to August had the largest gains in over three decades and there could be more gains ahead. Shelter inflation has increased 6.3 percent over the trailing 12 months, the highest of any period since 1986.9
Concern in the currency markets
As the dollar keeps surging, there is increasing volatility in currency markets. Many major world currencies have fallen below or are approaching key levels versus the dollar. For example, the Euro has already dipped below parity with the dollar, the Swiss Franc is approaching dollar parity, and the dollar is closing in on 150 Yen. The British Pound has been particularly volatile recently, sinking below $1.07 on September 26 and jumping back to nearly $1.15 on October 4th. For emerging markets, a strong dollar starts to cause concern of potential capital flight and sovereign debt default.10
In response, the Bank of England and the Bank of Japan have already intervened in currency markets on their own to support their own currencies with mixed results.11,12 More countries are likely to follow suit, adding to the uncertainties of currency markets. A coordinated effort like a joint intervention may be a better way to calm currency markets.
2. “Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers August 2022,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.t02.htm
3. Paulina Cachero, “‘Part-Time Vegetarians’ Are Skipping Meat With Prices Hit by Inflation,” Bloomberg, September 21, 2022, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-09-21/skipping-meat-shoppers-avoid-high-priced-steak-as-inflations-soars?
4. Martine Paris and Deena Shanker, “Once-Hot Fake Meat Sees Sales Slide on Price and Being Too ‘Woke’, Bloomberg, September 26, 2022, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-09-26/vegan-meat-sales-fall-with-high-prices-wokeness-turning-off-shoppers?
5. Marija Kovachevska, “Will Rising Meat Prices Make Us Vegan? New Study Says Yes,” ComfyLiving.net, July 8, 2022, https://comfyliving.net/will-rising-meat-prices-make-us-vegan-new-study-says-yes/
6. Pjotr Sauer and Luke Harding, “Putin annexes four regions of Ukraine in major escalation of Russia’s war,” The Guardian, September 30, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/sep/30/putin-russia-war-annexes-ukraine-regions
7. Yaroslav Trofimov, “Putin to Sign Decree Annexing Ukrainian Regions on Friday,” The Wall Street Journal, September 29, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/russia-strikes-central-ukraine-as-kyivs-forces-advance-in-the-east-11664444545?mod=article_inline
8. Georgi Kantchev, “Europe Investigates Unexplained Leaks in Nord Stream Gas Pipelines,” The Wall Street Journal, September 27, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/europe-investigates-unexplained-gas-leaks-in-nord-stream-pipelines-11664277490?mod=Searchresults_pos1&page=1
9. Matthew Boesler, “Biggest Jump in US Rents Since 1991 Keeps Overall Inflation High,” Bloomberg, September 13, 2022, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-09-13/biggest-jump-in-us-rents-since-1991-keeps-overall-inflation-high?
10. Tom Rees, “Traders bet against sterling as parity with the dollar looms closer,” The Telegraph, September 25, 2022, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2022/09/25/traders-bet-against-sterling-parity-dollar-looms-closer/#:~:text=Hedge%20funds%20have%20ramped%20up,Kwarteng%20unleashing%20a%20borrowing%20binge.
11. Megumi Fujikawa and Chelsey Dulaney, “Japan Jumps Into Market to Buy Yen for FirstTime in 24 Years,” The Wall Street Journal, September 22, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/japan-intervenes-in-currency-market-to-support-yen-11663836942
12. Paul Hannon and Chelsey Dulaney, “Bank of England Buys Bonds in Bid to StopSpread of Crisis,” The Wall Street Journal, September 28, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/bank-of-england-to-buy-bonds-to-stop-crisis-spread-11664360313
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